How To Care For The Common Cold

How To Care For The Common Cold

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Crisp autumn walks and frosty mornings mean we need to pull out the hats, scarves—and tissue boxes. Each year, adults come down with an average of two to three colds, and for kids, the number is even higher. Given that illness will strike at some point, what should you do when you or your family members fall under the weather?

The CDC notes that the common cold, most commonly a rhinovirus, is “spread through the air and close personal contact.” Its symptoms can range from a runny nose and sore throat to sneezing, coughing, and even body aches. Unfortunately for all of us, there is no cure but time—and that usually takes seven to ten daysLuckily, there are a few things you can do to lessen the effects of the common cold.

Rest & Get Some Sleep

In our fast-paced society, it can be hard to find time for a break, but sometimes it’s a necessity—especially when you’re sick. Getting a few extra z’s can not only help your body fight the virus, but can prevent you from catching it in the first place. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on immune function, and chronic sleep loss can increase an individual’s vulnerability to infectious diseases.” But even if not sleeping enough played a role in getting you sick, renewing your commitment to sleep can help you bounce back fasterAdditionally, by staying home from work or school while you’re ill, you can help stop the spread of the cold.

Stay Hydrated

Aside from soothing a sore throat, consuming liquids while you’re sick can help speed recovery. Indiana’s Moment of Science Podcast notes: “Even if you don’t have symptoms that cause obvious water loss—like a runny nose, sweating, vomiting or diarrhea—a cold or flu can dehydrate you in hidden ways. Just a slight rise in body temperature requires more water for metabolic reactions and breathing.” Apart from that, it can be easy to neglect drinking and eating while sick, since a cold can kill your appetite. So, if you want to feel better faster, be sure to keep some water or tea by your bedside at all times.

Consider Medication

If you’re truly feeling awful, you may want to consider taking some medication. According to Medline Plus, “acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) help lower fevers and relieve muscle aches.” It’s best to avoid aspirinas some doctors warn that giving it to children under the age of 18 can lead to a rare infection known as Reye Syndrome. Generally speaking, you’re safe if you stick with ibuprofen—just be sure to check and respect the dosage labels.


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Popsicles & Lozenges

If your cold comes with a sore throat or cough, you’ll be glad to have a few boxes of popsicles and lozenges on hand. Not only will they help to soothe your aching throat, but lozenges with menthol may help to break up congestion, while popsicles help to keep you hydrated. 

Create a Warm Compress

Even if it sounds a bit old-fashioned, according to the CDC, a warm compress can come in handy when it comes to fighting the common cold. For individuals experiencing ear pain, they suggest laying a “warm, moist cloth over the ear that hurts,” or putting a “warm compress over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure.” However, if your sinus or ear pressure continues to increase, you may want to schedule an appointment to check for a sinus infection.  

With plenty of rest, liquids, and ibuprofen, you should be back to your old self within a week or so of coming down with a cold. And remember, if you do catch a cold this season, stay home. It’s not nice to share rhinoviruses!


Perhaps it goes without saying, but always consult your health care professional before starting a course of treatment.

Annelise Driscoll

Annelise is a graduate of Hamilton College who enjoys writing, reading and roller derby. When she isn't noveling, she can be found doing yoga and watching British baking shows.
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