Even though winter hasn’t officially arrived yet, the cold chills have. We already had a freak blizzard with heavy snow and the rest isn’t far behind. If you have a tickle in your throat, cloudy head, or an achy body, you’re coming down with something. Again. The average adult gets three colds per year, each lasting an average of nine days but you don’t have to surrender. Here’s how to stop a cold before it takes hold—and feel better by tomorrow.
As soon as you feel the symptoms, start drinking water or juice. Staying hydrated cuts down on symptoms like a sore throat and stuffy nose. To combat a scratchy throat add half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water. The salt draws out excess water in your throat’s tissues, reducing the inflammation, and clears mucous and irritants from the back of the throat. The rinse also flushes out bacteria and viruses, which may help whether you’re getting a cold or want to prevent one in the first place.
Stuffy nose? Keep it clean. Using a saline nasal spray right after cold symptoms first appear may reduce their impact, studies suggest. And take a hot shower: Warm moisture helps clear nasal passages. If you know you’re getting sick, head to the drugstore within the first two hours. Grab a pain reliever like acetaminophen to fight off achiness. Over-the-counter allergy meds, like Zyrtec and Benadryl, help with symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes; allergy meds that contain decongestants, like Claritin D or Alavert D, will help clear your sinuses and keep you alert, if you need to be.
Don’t like the taste of cough medicine? Skip it and eat honey instead. It works just as well and tastes a lot better. Have one to two tablespoons straight from the jar or stirred into tea. If possible, skip work for a day or two. Your body can fight off the virus better if you’re well-rested. But if you have to go in, it’s not the end of the world. Just steer clear of co-workers as best you can—the first few days of a cold is when you’re most contagious. To keep from sharing your germs, wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based disinfectant gel.
At the end of the day, a healthy diet can help fuel the immune system, so choose a dinner that includes protein-packed foods like lean meat, fish, or beans, with a whole-grain side like brown rice and plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables. Take a hot shower before bed if you’re still feeling stuffy. Then get a good night’s sleep. The next day, if you still feel worse or have a fever, start vomiting, or develop an increasingly bad headache, call your doctor—these are signs you’ve got something other than the common cold (such as flu or an infection), and you may need antiviral medication, antibiotics, or other treatment. Otherwise, keep up the routine for the next few days, just to be sure you kick that cold for good.
Follow these directions and you’ll beat that cold before it even has a chance to spread so that you can enjoy your day 🙂