How to manage cold symptoms naturally


Do you have a sore throat, coughing, sneezing or runny nose? You may have the beginnings of a common cold. A cold is caused by a virus that affects the upper respiratory system – the nose, throat and upper airways. 

Since the cold is a viral infection, antibiotics aren’t effective and don’t shorten the course of the cold. Treatment plans should focus on symptom control. A typical cold lasts about seven to 10 days and, while there’s no magic pill to get rid of a cold, following these tips can help you manage your symptoms and prevent the cold from becoming more severe.

1. Pay attention to your body
Symptoms are often mild to begin with. They include a sore or scratchy throat, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough and low-grade fever.

A sore throat is usually one of the first symptoms a person experiences. But once you feel any of these symptoms, it’s important to recognize you may have a cold and take action. 

2. Drink lots of fluids

Once you experience one of these symptoms, start drinking more fluids to help your body do the things it needs to do to fight the infection. The human body is about 60 to 65 percent water and it’s essential for the body to function. Increasing fluid intake will help your body perform at an optimal level to fight the infection. Plus, a lot of water is lost when you have a fever and due to mucus and phlegm production, giving you another reason to stay hydrated. 

Drink at least one half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds would need to drink at least 75 fluid ounces of water, which is about five 16-ounce bottles or nine to 10 8-ounce glasses. Drink water for at least half the amount you need and the other half can be another liquid like sports drinks, watered down juices or herbal teas.

3. Take vitamin C

While the studies and evidence for the effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing or shortening a cold are inconclusive, it hasn’t been found harmful either. There is research that shows there are small benefits with vitamin C, and I recommend my patients increase their intake for the chance to help with cold symptoms. 

Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, apples and potatoes; juices; or as an over the counter supplement. Getting your vitamin C from eating whole foods will give your body a variety of necessary vitamins and nutrients to keep it in optimal condition to fight the infection. If you prefer to take vitamin C as a supplement, taking 500 milligrams or 1000 milligrams daily for the duration of the cold may help as well.

4. Rest

Probably one of the more underrated actions in fighting a cold is rest. It’s hard to do in today’s go, go, go society, but resting can help the body tremendously in fighting a cold. 

When our body is fighting an infection, it’s using most of its energy to do just that. So if you’re overexerting yourself and still going strong with your regular day or not getting enough sleep at night, your body has less energy to fight the infection. Resting allows your body to focus on fighting the infection, and getting more sleep helps the body re-energize and rejuvenate. 

If symptoms are mild, light exercise is acceptable, as this can help increase circulation, but vigorous exercise can lead to overexertion and may worsen symptoms.

5. Natural remedies for symptom control
  • Aromatherapy with essential oils can promote well-being and may help lessen the severity of some cold symptoms. You can use essential oils in a diffuser or put a few drops on a cotton ball and inhale. If using a diffuser, you can set up the diffuser within 3 feet of you on the night stand, end table or desk. Eucalyptus, peppermint or citrus blend oils can help with sinus symptoms. Lavender and chamomile can help promote relaxation.  
  • Consider nasal irrigation with a neti pot or a nasal spray to flush sinuses. Just make sure your neti pot, bulb syringe or squeeze bottle has been properly cleaned and that you only rinse with distilled, sterile water.
  • Try herbal teas to soothe the throat and help suppress cough. Peppermint teas may help with nasal symptoms, as well. Hot water with lemon and honey can help soothe the throat and suppress a cough. Ginger tea can help calm an upset stomach.  
There is no cure for the common cold but, with these natural remedies, symptoms may be managed and can help prevent your cold from getting worse. Additionally, do your part in preventing the spread of germs. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, cough into your elbow, and get your flu shot.

Dr. Renee Miranda is an integrative medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.


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