With winter well and truly here it’s not surprising that the number of people shuffling to work with rheumy eyes and running noses has increased. It’s a sad fact of life, but along with snow on the mountains and impending ski trips the seasonal scourge of the common cold is part and parcel of the colder months. Check out the article below for a few tips on how to get rid of a cold.

The Common Cold

When you’ve got a cold you could have any one of over two hundred different viruses and it’s the sheer diversity of these viruses that makes the common cold so difficult to treat. In fact, it’s safe to say that there is no cure for a cold – there’s no pill you can take that will kill the virus and make you suddenly well again. The best you can do his aid your body in fighting off the bug. If you can do this effectively you can at least shorten the duration of your misery.

Cold Symptoms

Colds are usually caused by viruses belonging to the rhinovirus family. These viruses attack the upper respiratory system and produce symptoms which almost all of us are familiar with. Common cold symptoms include:

  • Runny or blocked nose.
  • Coughing.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Sneezing.
  • Tiredness.

Cold symptoms can last for between 5 – 14 days and can also include a mild fever. A fever anything above mild may indicate that you’re suffering from influenza rather than a cold.

Getting Rid of a Cold

So what can you do to shorten a cold’s lifespan? Here are three tips that will help you get rid of that cold.

  1. Rest. Getting adequate rest is perhaps the most effective way to shorten a cold. Your body is marshalling its defences to fight off the virus. If it also has to deal with the stresses of work and a modern lifestyle those defences are going to be stretched pretty thin. Give yourself a chance. Take a few days off, avoid stressful situations, get plenty of sleep and avoid strenuous activity.
  2. Water. Drinking plenty of fluids will help fight the dehydrating effects of a cold. It will also help loosen congestion and allow mucous to flow from the body more easily. Adequate water intake keeps the delicate tissues of the nose and throat moist and so reduces the discomfort of a sore throat.
  3. Eat well. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables will provide the body with the nutrients it needs to wage its war against the cold virus.

Easing the Discomfort

In addition to the measures above, there are a few other things you can do which, while they won’t cure your cold, will at least lessen the pain.

  • Gargling with warm salt water will help sooth a sore throat by reducing inflammation in the mucous membranes.
  • Saline nasal sprays or drops will temporarily clear congestion in the nose. These types of sprays won’t cause the “rebound” worsening of symptoms which can occur with nasal decongestants.
  • Steam inhalation can relieve a stuffy head. Breathe the steam from a bowl of hot water, but ensure that the steam in not so hot that it will cause injury. For added head-clearing, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water.
  • Chicken soup has been a traditional cold treatment for centuries and guess what – it’s recently been found that there is a scientific basis for faith in this folk remedy. Chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting certain immune response cells and also accelerates the elimination of mucous.
  • Cold viruses love a dry environment. Temporarily increasing the level of humidity in your home will create conditions unfavourable to them and will also slow the rate at which the mucous membranes in your throat and nose become dehydrated.
  • Over the counter cold medications, generally decongestants and pain killers, can make you feel a little better temporarily, but they won’t shorten a cold and they may have undesirable side effects. If you’re taking these you should pay particular attention to how much liver-damaging paracetamol (acetaminophen) they contain. A couple of pills and a sachet of a cold-relieving lemon drink could easily put you over the safe intake limit – it’s not worth damaging your liver for a little temporary cold relief.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been touted for years as a cold preventative and a remedy that will shorten the duration of colds. Sadly, it appears that vitamin C doesn’t have much of a cold preventative effect. On the upside, taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms can shorten their duration.

Simple is Best

In any chemist or health food shop you’ll find a bewildering array of products all purporting to alleviate cold symptoms. Some of these may work, some of them may not. One thing you can count on, though, is that the simple approach of getting extra rest and maintaining adequate fluid intake is about the only known way of actually shortening the life of a cold.

And a few bowls of chicken soup probably won’t hurt either.

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