There are many remedies available for the common cold, both home and commercial ones. None of them can claim to cure colds which have to run their course which can be anything from a few days to one or two weeks. Some however, when combined with sufficient rest, may help in providing relief and speed up the healing process. Here are some well known tips that serve as a good reference as and when needed.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, juice, warm lemon water with honey, and clear broth – all these beverages also help to loosen up congestion. Avoid beverages like coffee, caffeinated sodas, and alcohol which make dehydration worse.
- Gargling with salt water can provide some relief for sore throats. For an 8—ounce glass of warm water, ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt is adequate. Other substitutes for salt water include sore throat sprays and lozenges.
- For blocked noses, saline nasal drops and sprays can provide some relief. For infants, putting some saline drops in the nose and gently suctioning the nostrils one at a time is the technique recommended by many experts. Older children can use nasal sprays.
- Acetaminophen is suitable for children aged 6 months or younger for pain relief. If they are older than this ibuprofen can be given and the dosage would be determined by the doctor, depending on the child’s age and weight. Adults can take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirins. Aspirin, however, needs to be given to children with caution. Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox for example should not be given aspirin as they may have Reye’s syndrome which is rare but potentially life-threatening for them.
- Adding moisture to the air by using a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer can help loosen congestion
- Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications e.g. antihistamines, pain relievers, decongestants etc may offer some relief but will not shorten the duration of a cold. They also often have side effects so care needs to be taken in ensuring that the recommended dosage is not exceeded.
There are also many tried and tested home remedies that people swear by which are gentler on the body than OTC medications. They too cannot curtail the life of a cold but they can make the symptoms less intense and provide relief. Some of the better known ones include the following.
- Hot ginger tea which relieves congestion by lessening the inflammation of mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and sinus cavity. The spiciness of the beverage also helps to loosen up phlegm and hydrates the body.
- Inhaling steam by filling a bowl with hot water and adding certain oils to it (tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus are the best known). Breathing in the mixture helps to clear a stuffy nose and the oils contain anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which aid the body in combating the infection. Draping a towel over the head helps to trap the steam making it much more effective.
- Garlic, lemon, and honey beverage. This involves crushing a garlic clove to some hot water, adding juice from a lemon, and topping it off with some honey. Drink the beverage 2-3 times a day.
- Using a hot water bottle to soften up the phlegm and loosen up muscles. After wrapping it in some thin flannel, the individual should position the bottle between the shoulder blades and lie over it on his or her back. The head can also be propped a little if suffering from a badly stuffed up nose.
- Having a hot bath containing a cup of Epsom salt and some drops of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender oils all blended together.
- Gargling with a mixture of salt, some tablespoons of dried or fresh sage, and apple cider vinegar. The osmotic properties of salt help draw out excess fluid from the throat, the apple cider vinegar has anti-bacterial properties that relieve pain, and the sage is both anti-bacterial and an astringent which aids in the drawing out of excess fluid.
- Goldenseal is an astringent and antibacterial herb which also has anti-inflammatory properties. It relieves swollen mucous membranes and helps fight the infection. It should not however be taken by pregnant women because it contains berbine which can induce contractions. The herb can be steeped in a cup of hot water with honey or lemon added for taste.
- An ancient remedy for people finding it difficult to sleep at night is to have a ‘toddy’. This is a cup of hot herbal tea with some honey in it and a small shot of whisky, brandy, or bourbon in. It is important to go easy on the alcohol though as too much inflames the nose and throat.
- Vitamin C and Echinacea. Studies on their efficacy are inconclusive. However they are likely to be most effective when they are taken at the onset of a cold and some studies have shown a reduction in the severity and duration of colds through their usage.
All the above may assist in alleviating the duration and symptoms of a cold. However the only certain treatment is time and most colds will get better on their own in about a week. Having a strong immune system helps the body to resist cold infections and some people can get over them in just a day or two. People can try any of the suggestions from the above list or whatever they believe works for them