wikiHow to Treat and Prevent a Common Cold

Two Parts:Treating Your ColdPreventing Colds

The common cold is a virus that infects your nose and throat. Although it is usually harmless, between the symptoms that include a runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, congestion, and cough, it may not feel so harmless. There is no cure for the common cold and most people will recover in approximately a week or two. But by taking care of yourself and getting rest, you may be able to get over the common cold more quickly.[1]

Part 1
Treating Your Cold

  1. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 1
    Drink sufficient fluids. Staying hydrated can help replace fluids you lose producing mucus or from a fever.[2] Ensuring you consume enough liquids may help you feel better and get over the cold more quickly.[3]
    • You should drink at least 9 cups of water a day to stay hydrated if you are a woman and 13 cups if you are a man. Athletes and pregnant women require up to 16 cups of water a day.[4]
    • You can drink water, juice, clear broth, or even clear, non-caffeinated soft drinks.[5]
    • Avoid coffee or caffeinated teas and soft drinks because they can cause dehydration and exacerbate your symptoms.[6]
  2. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 2
    Eat chicken soup. Recent studies have shown that the longtime home remedy of chicken soup can relieve the symptoms of a cold within two days.[7] Eating chicken soup as you can may minimize your symptoms and help you get over your cold more quickly.[8]
    • Chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties and also temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, which in turn relieves congestion.[9]
    • You don’t have to make your own chicken soup to get the benefits, but can also buy it canned from the store to enjoy its benefits.
  3. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 3
    Steer clear of alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products can exacerbate the symptoms of a cold. Avoiding these products while you are sick may make you feel better and reduce the duration of your symptoms.[10]
  4. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 4
    Gargle with a saltwater solution. Rinsing with a simple solution of salt water can keep help relieve a sore and scratchy throat..[11] Although the benefits are temporary, you can use this remedy as often as you need it to help yourself feel better.[12]
    • Make a salt solution by dissolving 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz glass of warm water.
    • Gargle a mouthful saline solution for 30 seconds as often as necessary.
    • Rinse with the salt water solution after every meal to help remove any debris in your teeth.[13]
    • The saline solution can soothe any inflammation you may also have.[14]
  5. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 5
    Soothe with throat lozenges or sprays. Throat lozenges or sprays containing mild analgesics can help soothe a sore throat. Products that have eucalyptus or camphor may also help to relieve congestion.[15]
    • Suck on throat lozenges or use sprays every two to three hours, or according to the package or your doctor’s directions.[16]
    • Suck on the throat lozenge until it is completely gone. Don't try to chew it or swallow it whole, which can numb your throat and cause swallowing difficulties.[17]
    • You can buy throat lozenges and sprays at most pharmacies and some grocery stores and larger retailers.
  6. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 6
    Snort saline nasal drops. Nasal congestion is one of the peskiest symptoms of a cold. Snorting saline nasal drops can help relieve congestion and make you feel better.[18]
    • You can get saline nasal drops over the counter at most pharmacies or large retailers. Make sure to follow the packing instructions or those of your doctor.
    • For some infants, doctors recommends using a few drops in your baby’s nose and then suctioning each nostril.[19]
  7. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 7
    Relieve pain with medication. You may have body aches and a headache with a cold. Consider taking an over the counter medication to relieve any pain you have.
    • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium to minimize pain.
    • Avoid giving children aspirin, which associated with Reye’s syndrome.
  8. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 8
    Rest as much as possible. Getting enough rest can help you get over your cold more quickly and may relieve your symptoms. If possible, stay home from work or school, especially if you have a fever or have taken medications that make you drowsy. Getting rest can also help prevent you from infecting other people with a cold.[20]
    • Take naps during the day if you can and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep a night to help your body recover.[21]
  9. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 9
    Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Sleep in a bedroom that is comfortable, warm, and slightly humid. By controlling factors such as the temperature and humidity, having comfortable bedding, and keeping air circulating, you may help relieve the symptoms of a cold.[22]
    • Set temperature in bedroom to between 70-75 degrees, which can keep you warm and help you sleep.[23]
    • Use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air, which can help relieve congestion and coughing.[24] Make sure to clean the humidifier to prevent mold or bacteria growth.[25]
    • You can also take a shower or bath to help ease congestion.
    • Use a fan to keep air circulating or open a window if it is not cold outside.[26]
  10. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 10
    Consider alternative medicine remedies. Many people rely on alternative medicine to prevent and relieve colds. However, there is no definitive scientific evidence that vitamin C, Echinacea, or zinc can help remedy your cold.[27] Use these remedies if you feel they work for you and make you feel better.
    • There is limited evidence that taking Vitamin C at the onset of cold symptoms may reduce the duration of your symptoms.[28]
    • Some studies have shown that taking Echinacea at the onset of a cold can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.[29]
    • As with Vitamin C and Echinacea, studies on Zinc have shown that it can reduce symptoms such as nausea and a bad taste in the mouth if taken within 24 hours after the onset of your cold.[30]
    • Do not use intranasal zinc, which can cause permanent damage to your sense of smell.[31]
  11. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 11
    See your doctor. If your symptoms or the cold persists, see you doctor as soon as you can. She can help treat your symptoms and may help prevent you from developing a related condition such as ear infection, sinusitis, or pneumonia.[32]

Part 2
Preventing Colds

  1. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 12
    Recognize that there is no cure. Although there is no cure for the common cold, there are effective ways to help prevent it. Employing basic measures such as handwashing, cleaning surfaces, and covering your mouth can help minimize your risk for contracting it.[33]
    • Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for the common cold.[34]
  2. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 13
    Wash hands often and thoroughly. One of the most effective ways to prevent a cold is by proper hand-washing techniques.[35] This minimizes the spread of bacteria and the flu virus from surfaces that many people touch.[36]
    • Wash your hands in warm water with a mild soap for at least 20 seconds.[37]
    • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.[38]
  3. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 14
    Cover your nose and mouth with tissues. If you have a cold, and out of common courtesy, cover both your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow to avoid contaminating your hands.[39]
    • Make sure to discard the tissue right away and then wash your hands.[40]
    • Covering your nose and mouth minimizes the risk of spreading your cold to those around you.
  4. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 15
    Avoid crowded spaces. Colds are very contagious, especially for children, and spreads most easily in places where there are large crowds of people. Staying away from crowded spaces may minimize your risk of getting a cold.[41]
    • Make sure to wash your hands after touching anything in crowded places, such as handles in public transportation or spaces at a day car.
    • If you have a cold, stay home to reduce the risk of spreading it to others.[42]
  5. Image titled Treat and Prevent a Common Cold Step 16
    Disinfect surfaces and spaces. Germs spread easily in shared spaces such as bathrooms or on kitchen surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting these spaces frequently may help prevent spreading the cold to other members of your family or your friends and colleagues.[43]
    • Focus on spaces that everyone in your vicinity uses. This includes the toilet, bathroom sink, kitchen counters, and the kitchen sink. You may also want to disinfect door handles.
    • You can use any type of surface disinfectant available commercially.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (40)

Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses | Conditions and Treatments