In one of our more recent posts (What Happens when you Get Sick), we talked about how the body responds to sickness. In this post, we will talk about ways to accelerate your body’s fight with a typical cold virus.
While there is no silver bullet that will instantly cure your cold and make you feel better, there are a number of steps you can take that will make a dramatic difference in how soon you get over the sickness.
Get as much rest as possible
Your body is good at multi-tasking, but when it is dealing with an invading bacteria or virus, things can get dicey. Aim for at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night and try to squeeze in a few naps as well.
Lubricate your nasal passage
Your body uses mucous as a barrier to prevent harmful bacteria and viruses from entering important areas (like your respiratory tract) as well as a vehicle for ejecting those same invaders.
If your nasal passage becomes too dry, it becomes harder for your body to get things moving in the right direction (one reason why colds thrive in winter is the dry air). Use a simple saline based nose spray to provide moisture to this area.
Another tactic that can provide some temporary relief is to take a pot with a thin layer of water, heat it almost to a boil, add in a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and with a towel over your head, give yourself a mini-steam bath.
Keep your mucous thin
Keep your mucous thin? Yes. It’s important to keep your nasal passage moisturized and it’s also important to keep your mucous thin. Doing so will prevent blockage. If things aren’t moving, that gives bacteria the perfect environment in which to fester.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to irrigate your nasal passage. If you’ve never heard of a neti-pot before, now would be a good time to get to know one. While they can be somewhat uncomfortable at first, I can’t think of a better product for flushing out a clogged nasal passage. Pick one up at your pharmacy or do a search for one online.
Find some humidity
Whether it’s going to a steam room or buying a vaporizer to go in your room, humid, moist air can work wonders for you. As we’ve mentioned several times, it is cold and dry air that helps a cold virus thrive.
In many cases, there is reason to be wary of herbal supplements and so-called “immune boosters.” There is, however, some evidence that zinc can shorten the duration of a cold. While there is no home-run data, there are several studies that suggest moderate usage of zinc gluconate lozenges can shorten a cold by as much as a day. It is unclear why, but lozenges have been more effective in clinical studies than sprays or liquids.
While it’s not exactly true that you can simply flush a cold out of your body, staying hydrated will help thin your mucous and prevent dehydration, which can seriously sap your body’s ability to deal with an illness.
What doesn’t work
Over the counter medication may help mitigate symptoms and make you feel better, but it won’t speed up the healing process or cure your cold. In some cases, these medications can make symptoms worse if they are taken for too many days.
Antibiotics will not treat a cold. Antibiotics are capable of beating back bacterial infections, but they can do nothing for viruses.
And the jury’s still out…
Vitamin C and echinacea are taken by many people as both a means for preventing colds and shortening the length of them. There are of course other vitamins and herbal supplements that are cited for their anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. While there is not a lot of scientific evidence supporting their use, they certainly can’t hurt, and who knows, they may actually help out – big or small, it would seem that lending a hand to your body is not a bad idea.
If you have any of your own personal tips, please share them in the comments below.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nettsu/4930723793/