Colds are caused by viruses, most commonly the rhinovirus or coronavirus (COVID-19 is just one form of it!). According to WebMD, a cold is a mild respiratory illness with symptoms that include a sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, cough and congestion. It should not be mistaken for the flu, which shares similar symptoms that can become more severe. The flu can also include a persistent fever, fatigue, headaches and body and muscle aches.
There’s a reason why it’s called the common cold: the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in the UK say that adults can get between two and five colds a year. Just poke your head into any doctor’s waiting room and you can hear a symphony of sniffles at any given time!
There isn’t a cure for the common cold. According to Dr Jean Carstensen of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, cold symptoms usually improve within five to seven days. However, you don’t have to stay miserable the whole time.
Here are several home remedies to soothe the symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Dr Carstensen says staying hydrated will help unclog your nose and thin out any mucous. It’s best to stick to plain water though, and stay away from alcohol.
- Get lots of rest – it will go a long way in helping your body heal.
- Shore up your immune system. Since there is no cure for the common cold, this is your best bet to defeat the virus. To do so, you need well-balanced meals. It turns out that consuming chicken soup to fight a cold is more than just an old wives’ tale: a study by University of Nebraska has found that the combination of chicken and vegetables helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. Warm liquids have the additional benefit of soothing and easing congestion.
- Clear nasal congestion by breathing in steam to help loosen the phlegm. Simply place your head over a pot of boiling water, taking care not to get too close. Then take a few deep breaths through your nose. This will help you breathe easier.
- Rub a little mentholated topical ointment, such as Vicks VapoRub under your nose to help you breathe a bit easier. The mentholated vapour and heat will provide relief.
- Gargle with warm salt water several times a day to temporarily relieve a sore throat.
- Place hot packs on your sinuses as another way to relieve nasal congestion. If you don’t have a store-brought one, you can easily make your own: heat a damp towel in the microwave for 30 seconds, test to ensure the temperature is bearable, then place it on your nose.
See a doctor if your symptoms worsen after a week. You may have caught a secondary bacterial infection that will require medication. Look out for these symptoms:
- Your fever does not subside
- You have difficulty breathing
- You can’t keep anything down
- Your cough, headache and congestion haven’t gone away