How to Stop a Cold when You Feel It Coming On

Four Parts:Practicing the Basics of Cold ReliefUsing Natural Remedies to Stop a ColdUsing Medical Remedies to Stop a ColdBoosting Your Immune System

When it is cold season, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent a cold — from washing your hands frequently, making sure you get adequate rest, staying hydrated and eating healthy — but sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may still get sick. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop a cold once you already feel it coming on. There are numerous steps you can take in preventing the cold from getting any worse than it needs to be, however, and many of these steps can also reduce the severity and length of your cold symptoms.

Part 1
Practicing the Basics of Cold Relief

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    Get plenty of rest. Aim for eight hours of sleep the first night after the cold starts coming on. A full night's rest improves immune function, making it easier for your body to fight off the invading virus.[1]
    • If you cannot get a full night's sleep, take a 20 to 30 minute nap in the middle of the day to force your body into rest-mode.
    • If possible, skip work or school at the onset of your cold in order to get more rest.[2] Staying home can also prevent the virus from spreading to other people.
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    Drink more fluids.[3] Fluids prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist, making it a less appealing place for germs to gather. Fluids can also break up congestion and ease symptoms.
    • You should drink at least eight to ten 8-oz (250-ml) glasses of water each day, especially when you notice a cold coming on.
    • Water, caffeine-free teas, sports drinks, pure fruit juices, clear broth, and ginger ale are all acceptable and beneficial for colds.
    • Limit drinks with caffeine or alcohol in them, as these are diuretics that can cause dehydration.
    • Green tea and peppermint tea are both thought to contain properties that can help boost your body's defenses while expelling germs from the body.[4]
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    Keep the air moist. Dryness can help cold viruses linger and thrive, so filling the air with moisture can cut down on the length of your cold.[5] Adding moisture can also ease your symptoms by preventing your nasal passages from feeling dry and sore.
    • Run a humidifier in the room you spend most of your time in or take a hot shower to create plenty of steam.
    • Warm moisture can be especially helpful.

Part 2
Using Natural Remedies to Stop a Cold

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    Bring out the chicken soup.[6] Evidence suggests that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce nasal swelling and minimize your symptoms. Consuming healthy calories is also essential early on so that your body has enough energy to fight the virus.
    • Make sure to drink the broth as well. The hot liquid contains a vast amount of the soup's nutrition and will also help keep you hydrated.
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    Try zinc supplements.[7] The jury is out when it comes to the benefits of zinc, but there are studies that suggest that a small dose of zinc supplement, when taken every two hours at the start of a cold, can shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms.
    • Possible negative side effects include upset stomach, nausea, abdominal pain, and mouth irritation. People who take intranasal zinc have also been known to permanently lose their sense of smell.[8]
    • At most, zinc may only trim a day off the duration of your cold.
    • Zinc supplements are available in liquid drop form, tablet form, lozenge form, and as intranasal spray.
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    Use lemons. Lemon juice contains high levels of vitamin C, and the acidic nature of the juice can also help soothe your early symptoms and reduce the amount of phlegm.[9]
    • By reducing the amount of phlegm, you may be able to prevent the virus from settling in and causing a long-lasting infection.
    • Squeeze a lemon wedge into your tea or sip on lemonade.
    • You can also enjoy tea that combines lemon and honey for an even stronger benefit.
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    Consume some ginger. Some researchers believe that ginger promotes healthy sweating, which can help boost your immune system at the start of a cold. By stimulating perspiration, ginger can cleanse your system and help lower your body temperature.[10][11]
    • Sweat contains dermcidin, a germ-fighting agent that may provide protection against invading microorganisms. The ability to protect your body from these invaders is strongest when you sweat a little, which ginger can help promote.
    • Steep a few slices of fresh ginger in hot water for several minutes to create an herbal tea. You could also consume foods containing ginger.
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    Reach for the garlic. Garlic contains allicin, a compound thought to boost the immune system and relieve cold symptoms. Some studies indicate that garlic may even help fight viruses and prevent future colds from happening to you.[12]
    • You can prepare a garlic "tea" by crushing one or two cloves of garlic and letting the garlic steep in hot water for several minutes.
    • You can also increase your garlic intake by consuming foods prepared with garlic. Add a little garlic to your chicken soup or help yourself to a slice of garlic toast.
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    Try Echinacea or goldenseal.[13] Like many home remedies, there is mixed evidence about whether or not these two herbs have a positive effect on shortening the length of a cold. But studies seem to indicate that Echinacea and goldenseal are most effective when used as soon as you feel a cold coming on.
    • Take a liquid tincture of Echinacea or goldenseal since it seems to be more effective than the capsule form of these herbs.
    • If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor to verify that it is safe to take these herbal supplements. Herbs can negatively interfere with some medications.
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    Bring a little spice into your life. Have a bowl of chili or add a dash of hot sauce to your next meal. Spicy foods temporarily open the sinus passages, which can relieve congestion and keep the mucus flowing.[14]
    • Note that this is most effective when your early symptoms start in your nose rather than your throat. By keeping your sinus passages as clear as possible, you can help prevent infection from setting in and encourage the expulsion of the cold virus.

Part 3
Using Medical Remedies to Stop a Cold

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    Use saline nasal drops and sprays.[15] These over-the-counter remedies relieve congestion and irrigate the nose, flushing out mucus as well as virus particles and bacteria. Manually flushing out germs can promote a speedy recovery.
    • Squeeze the bulb syringe to fill it with saline fluid and place the tip in your nostril about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 12 mm) deep. Slowly release the bulb to empty the saline into your nose.
    • If you cannot get to the store to buy saline nasal solution, make your own by combining 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) salt with 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) baking soda and 8 oz (250 ml) warm water. Use it in conjunction with a Neti pot for best results and make sure you always use water that has been filtered, distilled, or boiled for at least a minute.
    • Make sure to rinse the syringe after each application and let it air dry. Doing so can prevent re-exposure to the same germs.
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    Try an over-the-counter cold medication.[16] An over-the-counter decongestant dries up the mucus on your nose, which can both ease your symptoms and limit the amount of contact the virus has with your nasal lining.
    • While decongestants often help soothe your symptoms, they may or may not help shorten the length of your cold. By easing your symptoms, however, you improve your odds of staying well-rested, which can increase your body's overall ability to fight off the virus faster.
    • Note that decongestants can increase heart rate. They may also cause anxiety and insomnia in some individuals. If you are taking prescription medication for any condition, consult a pharmacist prior to purchasing medication to ensure no interactions will affect you negatively.
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    Opt for an antihistamine.[17] If your nose is runny instead of stuffy, an antihistamine may offer you greater relief while doing more to minimize your cold symptoms.
    • Antihistamines are generally considered allergy medicines but they stop sneezing and reduce drainage more effectively than a decongestant does. By drying up the mucus, an antihistamine limits the amount of time the virus comes into contact with the lining of your nose. This may cut down on the length of your cold as a result.
    • As with other treatments, the sooner you start taking the medication, the stronger the effect will be.
    • Note that antihistamines tend to make people drowsy. Those that also contain a decongestant tend to minimize this drowsiness, however. You can look for non-drowsy antihistamines. Avoid using antihistamines if you are driving or work with heavy machinery.

Part 4
Boosting Your Immune System

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    Take a walk.[18] Light exercise can actually help boost your immune function. Since your symptoms are mildest at the onset of your cold, take the time to squeeze in some light exercise — like brisk walking, in two to three 10-minute stretches.
    • Yoga and other gentle exercises can be performed instead of walking. These options may even be better if the weather outside is too nasty for a walk.
    • Take precautions if the weather is chilly or rainy. Bundle up in order to keep yourself dry and warm.
    • Taking a walk outside on a sunny day can also grant you the opportunity to absorb some vitamin D from the sun, thereby giving your immune system another added boost.
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    Increase your vitamin C intake.[19] While vitamin C has long been promoted as a cold remedy, there is little scientific evidence to suggest its effectiveness. Vitamin C does boost the immune system, however, and some research suggests that it may shorten the duration of symptoms if taken at the beginning of a cold.
    • Vitamin C can be taken in supplement form or it can be consumed naturally through food and drink. Most fruits contain high doses of vitamin C. This is especially true of citrus fruits.
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    Have a little honey.[20] Honey is thought to boost the immune system. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can offer further help in speeding up your body's healing response.
    • Take a spoonful of honey when you notice your first symptoms in order to give your immune system a quick jolt.
    • Honey is especially soothing if your first symptoms begin in your throat.
    • You can mix honey into your tea, coffee, or water as well.
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    Eat yogurt. Acidophilus and other active cultures in yogurt can put healthy bacteria back into your body, thereby strengthening your immune system. These beneficial bacteria can help stimulate the production of various immune system substances that help your body fight diseases.[21]
    • Yogurt is especially effective at returning healthy bacteria to your gastrointestinal tract, where much of your immune function actually occurs.

Things You'll Need

  • Water and other fluids
  • Humidifier
  • Saline nasal drops and sprays
  • Decongestant
  • Antihistamine
  • Vitamin C supplements
  • Zinc supplements
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Chicken soup
  • Yogurt
  • Echinacea
  • Goldenseal
  • Spicy food

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses