The common cold slowly sneaks up on you. One day, you are zipping through life, and the next day, your eyes are watery and your throat is scratchy. A day after that you’ve started coughing and sneezing, and it’s all downhill from there.
If you catch a cold, you can expect to be sick for up to two weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. The benefit of the gradual onset of symptoms, however, is that you have time to boost your body’s immune system and natural defenses to better fight the infection.
Here are a few strategies that might lessen the symptoms or help you push through to feel better sooner.
Begin by slowing down and getting plenty of rest. Lack of sleep can wear you out, leaving you vulnerable to attacking germs. Doctors recommend adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, giving the body time to heal, repair and ward off infections.
Studies show chronic stress suppresses the immune system by cutting the number of cells that make up the front lines of defense. Tension also pumps up a body’s supply of cortisol, a stress hormone that can hurt immune systems and make you more susceptible to a cold.
To give your immune system a lift, do something that relaxes you. Try listening to soothing music, meditating or even getting a little exercise, like taking a walk.
Make sure you are drinking enough water. This will help your immune system fight off infection by replacing fluid lost by blowing your nose. It also loosens congestion in your airways. While juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey can help keep you hydrated, avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated beverages – those worsen dehydration.
Over-the-counter products can do some amazing things when it comes to fighting cold symptoms. But some people swear by tried and true remedies that have been passed down through the ages. The best part: You likely have the ingredients right in your cupboard.
Saltwater gargle: Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. This has been used for generations to temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. If heat doesn’t sound good, many people turn to ice chips, too.
Hot liquids: Whether it’s chicken soup, tea, hot cider or bone broth, many people are soothed by sipping on hot liquids. It keeps you hydrated while seeming to ease congestion by increasing mucus flow.
Good nutrition can help strengthening your body’s natural resistance to illnesses, and consuming nourishing foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strawberries, and broccoli, is a great start, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Although usually minor, colds can make you feel pretty miserable. Hopefully some of these strategies mixed with a little TLC can make the misery a bit easier to endure.