It’s wintertime and it seems like this year, even more than usual, the common cold is hitting hard! It strikes everyone in slightly different ways, and the length can vary from person to person. Though there’s not a silver bullet, I am going to give you some of my best cold-fighting tips that I’ve shared with the TODAY show, and seen work with patients and in my own home!
TYPICAL LENGTH + WHY YOU CAN’T KICK IT
Usually a common cold goes away in about 5 days. If it sticks around longer, it can be for a number of reasons like the immune system is weakened, you are worn down, dehydrated and not letting your body rest!
A lot of times, I find that patients who are prone to colds, long-lasting colds, and sinus infections, also have a lot of sugar and dairy in their daily diets! Track to see how much you are truly consuming. Remember, refined sugar depletes the immune system and dairy can thicken up and create more mucous. So lay off t he sweets and cheese/milk if you are working to avoid a cold OR if you are prone to the 2-week cold once your symptoms set in.
I’m about to give you some of my best tips, but if you must know, I absolutely love the pairing of these two products and always have them on-hand at our house.
When you come down with a cold it’s important to rest…and I’m not just talking about sleep—though that’s the most important. I’m also talking about laying off the heavy workouts when you’re feeling worn down and those cold symptoms come on. Dehydration and overworking the body when you’re trying to fight off a cough and cold can make it worse! Rest, rest, rest. If you must do some sort of workout, try gentle stretching and/or yoga.
First up, is that nagging cough. It often times comes with a scratchy and sore throat. There are a few reasons why you can’t get over a cough. It could be due in part to stress, dehydration, or that you are using too many antihistamines and decongestants.
- Stress completely depletes the immune system. I tell my patients and friends that the best thing they can do is find the source of the stress and work backwards to eliminate or manage the triggers! In the meantime, check out my favorite essential oils that help to alleviate stress!
- Hydrate because we’re all a bit dehydrated. We drink too much coffee, alcohol – and we don’t drink enough of the right fluids to replace it.
- Don’t overdo the antihistamines and decongestants to treat the cold. Too many of them actually thickens the mucus and keeps the incessant cough around longer.
KICK THE COUGH
- Reduce stress.
- Focus on hydration.
- Consider backing off the decongestants and your antihistamines.
- Try eucalyptus or peppermint oil, diluted with a carrier oil, on the bottoms of your feet and chest (note: keep those oils away from small children as not all children can tolerate).
- Steam yourself. Get your favorite book and head into the bathroom. Close the door and stuff a towel under the cracks to keep the warm air from escaping. Then, turn on the shower as hot as it will go, and let it run for 10-minutes. We like to plug the tub and catch the water, then take a warm, soothing Epsom salt bath (because it feels good and doesn’t waste the water!).
HONEY, PEPPERMINT OIL, SALT & WATER GARGLE
I love a good kitchen cure, which you can probably tell from my YouTube channel. I bet you can find all of these solutions in your kitchen cabinet!
Raw or manuka honey is nature’s gift when it comes to colds and coughs! It can coat your throat and help with that incessant tickle. I often will recommend it to my young moms who have a 18-month-old who cant sleep at night due to drainage. A little spoonful of honey will help that tickle settle (note: honey is not recommended for children under 1). Try stirring two teaspoons of honey in your tea, especially a Sleepytime tea at night or with warm water and fresh lemon in the morning (especially if you have to go to work and are under the weather).
Peppermint oil mixed with a little warm coconut or olive oil is another great solution. You only need 1-2 drops of pure peppermint essential oil, and mix it together with a tablespoon of carrier oil. Rub it right on your chest, just always avoid eyes and keep out of reach of small children, as many young children (under 5-years-old do not tolerate peppermint oil).
Peppermint contains menthol, a natural agent that works as a “natural decongestant.” It’s found in many over-the-counter cough products, and can help loosen chest congestion to break up a cough with phlegm.
SALT & WATER GARGLE
I love this old remedy! Probably because I’ve personally seen it work! Gargling with warm salt water can help because a lot of the irritation with a cough is coming from drainage. When you gargle, it breaks it up and may help to stop or lessen the cough. Do this several times a day!
Also, stay away from cold and iced drinks—as in no cold or iced beverages! And anything that can be dehydrating – coffee, soda, alcohol, even caffeine-packed teas.
Salt water or a saline solution can also be good to flush out the nose. If you’re prone to getting a cold or have sinus issues, make sure you stay on top of flushing your nasal passages with a saline spray, solution or using a neti- pot!
GARLIC SALVE, CHICKEN SOUP
One of my favorite cold and viral fighters is garlic! Garlic contains Allicin, which in its purest form, can act as an antiviral. Read more about how much I love garlic here and definitely use the recipe to make my garlic salve.
You can also take it straight in a capsule, but watch out—if you overdo it, your breath will stink!
Homemade chicken soup contains a natural decongestant that breaks up mucus and it has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help ease cold symptoms and soothe your aches and discomfort. You can add whatever you want to a basic homemade recipe. . . in our house, we add tumeric or ginger!
Stay warm this winter and keep these tips on-hand so that next time a cold hits, you are ready!