4 Ways to Kill a Cold Before it Starts

July 11, 2023
Ways to Kill a Cold Before it Starts

Most often caused by rhinoviruses, the common cold can leave you feeling congested and run-down. While there’s no way to cure a cold once you are infected, there are some things you can do to reduce symptoms and speed recovery. Here are 4 ways to get rid of a cold.

1. Reduce Stress

When we are stressed, our bodies create more inflammation-causing hormones than when we are calm and relaxed. Research has linked stress to reduced immune function. If you feel a cold coming on, you may be able to reduce its severity if you avoid stress as much as possible.

Ways to Reduce Stress

While of course it’s impossible to eliminate all stressors from your life, you can mitigate the effects of stress when you feel that you’re coming down with a cold by:

  • Taking time off work or school if you can, to allow you to focus on your health
  • Engaging in gentle exercise like walking outdoors or doing yoga if you feel well enough
  • Meditating
  • Journaling
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Taking a hot bath or a relaxing shower
  • Reading a book

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

Studies have also shown that poor sleep can jeopardize immune function. Not only can a weakened immune system leave you more susceptible to illnesses, but it can worsen symptoms if you do get sick. Be sure to prioritize sleep by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This type of consistency can help regulate your circadian rhythm and ensure that you get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other sleep disruptors to maximize your ability to sleep soundly. The CDC recommends the following target amounts of sleep per day:

  • School age children: 9-12 hours
  • Teens: 8-10 hours
  • Adults: 7+

If you can’t get quality sleep, you may find it helpful to take a sleep aid. If cold symptoms are keeping you awake at night, consider a cold medication that helps you sleep, like NyQuil. Or, if you have a hard time sleeping in general, talk to your doctor about starting a long-term sleep medication.

3. Stay Hydrated

The common cold causes a dramatic increase in mucus production, which can quickly dehydrate you as your immune system burns through your body’s water reserves to create the mucus. That means that one of the best steps you can take to fend off a cold is to drink plenty of clear fluids like water, juice, or broth. Staying hydrated not only helps prevent dehydration, but it can also help improve immune function, loosen congestion, and soothe a dry, scratchy throat. Follow these tips to stay hydrated while sick with a cold:

  • Drink enough fluids to quench your thirst and ensure that your urine is consistently clear or pale yellow – total fluid intake (including that found in food) should be about 15.5 cups per day for adult males and about 11.5 cups per day for adult females
  • If your symptoms are severe, consider drinking electrolyte-rich beverages that contain essential minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride that help your body maintain a healthy fluid balance
  • Hot beverages can be especially helpful at alleviating symptoms as the steam can ease congestion and the warmth can soothe a sore throat
  • Add honey to your beverages for a natural sore throat remedy and a sweet taste

Liquids to Avoid When You’re Dehydrated

While your morning tea or coffee is still hydrating, avoid drinking too many caffeinated drinks, as caffeine is a mild diuretic. This means it will make you urinate more, which can be counterproductive when trying to maintain high levels of hydration. Alcohol should also be avoided when fighting off a cold, as it dehydrates you, reduces immune system function, and makes you more likely to get infections.

4. Eat Fruits & Vegetables

Contrary to popular belief, studies have found no evidence that Vitamin C supplements have any effect on a cold. That said, you can strengthen your immune response by eating a healthy diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, which can help you recover faster and improve your overall health. Include a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet to get all the nutrients you need and an immune boost. Consider foods like:

  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapples
  • Guava
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens

What About Zinc?

According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies suggest you may be able to reduce the duration of a cold by taking zinc lozenges within 24 hours of the initial symptoms. That said, this research stopped short of recommending zinc, due to limited sample sizes. Before you take zinc for a cold, it’s important to understand that it can cause unpleasant side effects, including nausea. What’s more, too much zinc can cause nervous system damage, anemia, and copper deficiencies. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before using zinc supplements to try to prevent or reduce the length of a cold.

Signs Your Cold is Getting Better

When you’re suffering from cold symptoms, it can seem like time slows down and the illness is lasting forever. However, even before you feel completely better, there are signs that can indicate you’re on the mend, like:

  • A runny nose – This might not seem like a great improvement over a stuffy or blocked nose, but it means that all of the mucus is draining out of your sinuses and you’ll soon be feeling better.
  • Changes in mucus color – During a cold infection, mucus often turns white, yellow, or green. When it returns to clear, that’s a positive sign that your cold is getting better.
  • Feeling more energetic – Your energy levels might return to normal before all of your other cold symptoms resolve, but be careful not to overdo it with activity until you are completely better.

When to Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for a Cold

While most colds resolve on their own with self-care, there are times when you should seek medical attention. Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for cold symptoms that linger for more than two weeks or if the person with the cold is an infant, senior, or has a compromised immune system. Additionally, seek treatment if you suspect the cold has turned into a sinus infection or strep throat.

PhysicianOne Urgent Care has dozens of locations that are open 365 days per year with extended hours, and we offer 24/7 integrated virtual care as well. We don’t require referrals and take most major insurance plans, as well as offer affordable self-pay rates.

Son kissing mother
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the attention you gave me last week. My son was started on antibiotics and ear drops. Within 24 hours he began to feel better. The poor kid had been going to school in tears because he was afraid of missing any more days, but feeling (and looking) just awful! He's not been able to even think about lacrosse practice, but thanks to starting him on antibiotics, he was thrilled to return to practice today.
Somers, NY
  • 5.0
  • 4.6