The average American adult gets a cold 2-3 times a year, and kids get even more. That makes the common cold the most prevalent health problem facing people of all ages. When you experience the telltale signs of congestion, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, and runny nose, all you want is a quick cure.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for a cold.
The good news is that there are many ways to alleviate your symptoms and help you get through the 7-10-day cycle of the virus.
At Redwood Family Health Center in McKinney and Farmers Ranch, Texas, Dr. Venkata Vallury and Dr. Visalakshi Vallury offer practical, effective tips for managing your cold symptoms and preventing further complications.
The common cold is a viral infection, but there isn’t a single cold virus. In fact, there are more than 200 different viruses that can cause a cold. Rhinoviruses are the most common culprit — they float in the air all around you and enter your mouth and nose. If you’re near someone with a cold, you can easily contract the virus simply by breathing.
But viruses also live on surfaces, so you don’t even need to be around an infected person — all you have to do is touch a doorknob, shopping cart, keyboard, or handrail after them, then absentmindedly touch your nose or mouth, and the virus enters your system.
Most colds run their course in about a week to 10 days, but during that time, they can cause a few other problems, as well. As your body works to fight the virus, it taxes your immune system, making you more vulnerable to secondary conditions like ear and sinus infections and bronchitis.
To prevent these eventualities, it’s best to keep your symptoms under control. Here are our best tips for managing cold symptoms.
The cold virus triggers a defense mechanism in your body to send reinforcements in the form of mucus. That mucus may help in the long run, but in the meantime, it’s blocking your breathing, dripping down the back of your throat, and running out your nose. Not only is this uncomfortable, but over time, this excess mucus can lead to secondary infections, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.
Over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines can reduce the mucus effect and help prevent further infections from setting in.
Saline nasal sprays and drops can also combat stuffiness, especially in children too young for certain cold medications.
It’s easy to become dehydrated when your body is fighting an illness, and ironically, this leads to more mucus production, so the cycle of symptoms continues.
Drinking plenty of fluids when you have a cold can loosen congestion and help you get rid of it faster.
Likewise, if you live in a dry climate, it may exacerbate your cold symptoms. Moisturizing the air with a cool-mist humidifier can also help break up your congestion and relieve your symptoms.
Because colds are so common, it’s tempting to think of them as no big deal. People often “power through” their cold and go to work or school as normal. This is a bad idea for two reasons:
One, colds are highly contagious, so going out in public puts others at risk for contracting the virus.
Two, the best way to get over your cold is to allow your body time to rest and heal. If you keep going about your busy schedule as usual, you will likely suffer from your cold longer.
Colds come with various types of aches and pains, and there’s no need to suffer through them.
You can soothe a sore throat by gargling with warm salt water (about a half a teaspoon per eight ounces of water). Throat lozenges and sprays can also bring temporary relief.
Sipping tea, warm apple juice, or chicken broth may also relieve your sore throat and loosen mucus.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can alleviate body aches that often accompany colds.
Although the jury is still out on whether vitamins and supplements can affect the duration of a cold, there is enough evidence to suggest that they may. Here are a few remedies that may shorten the life of your cold.
Keep in mind that antibiotics do NOT work for a cold. Antibiotics help you fight bacterial infections, not viral infections.
If you have cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks or are getting worse, it’s time to seek medical help. To schedule an appointment, either request one online or call our friendly staff — we’re here to help you get through the common cold with as little discomfort as possible.