It's coming: the tickling throat, the rumbling cough, the foggy brain. A cold--precisely when we can least afford to get sick. Whether because of that big meeting on Wednesday, that much anticipated date on Saturday night, or simply errand overload, now is not the time to be laid up with a bug. How to vanquish the dreaded disease?
There is no cure for the common cold, but the story doesn't end there. We've all got friends/relative/coworkers with their own brand of snake oil--a trademark blend of chicken soup, VapoRub, and Tabasco sauce--that promises to end all our woes. Is relying on these remedies like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, or will they really help us get back on our feet within a few days?
Anatomy of a Cold
The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system and is caused by one of three types of viruses: rhinoviruses, picornaviruses, and coronavirues. Though highly contagious, colds are rarely serious or fatal for people with normal immune systems. But because they are caused by viruses, there is no cure. This is important to remember, particularly for people who take antibiotics for colds. Not only are antibiotics ineffectual in curing colds, but they also increase users' likelihood of developing a resistance to antibiotics.
Pick Your Battles
So, the simple answer is no--you can't get rid of a cold once you've contracted it, because you can't cure a virus. But you can treat your symptoms effectively and strengthen your immune system to reduce the cold's severity and speed up your recovery.
The most effective treatment for colds is to handle symptoms one by one. Sore throats, coughs, runny noses, headaches, sneezing, achiness, and fatigue all require individual attention. Fever more often accompanies influenza, but it can occur with colds, too. Addressing these symptoms as soon as they arise will help you keep them under control and prevent your illness from completely disrupting your life.
- To treat a sore throat, drink plenty of soothing hot fluids in combination with syrups to coat the irritated area. Throat lozenges usually help only while you are sucking on them; once they dissolve, you actually feel worse than before, since they break up the mucus that naturally coats and protects your throat. Choose tea or hot lemonade with plenty of thick honey instead. And resist the temptation to spike it, even though hot toddies are a traditional cold remedy--alcohol will also wear away that protective mucous membrane.