Rusty is a writer, proofreader, editor, and designer living along Lake Michigan's coast with her supportive, nerdy husband.
You feel like you’ve been run over by an elephant. Your head’s a foggy mess, and your nose can’t decide if it wants to run or suffocate you—so it decides to just do both. You may have a fever, you may feel like you want to sleep for a week straight, and you may think you'll never be well again. While I can’t offer miracle remedies to directly cure a cold (I’m not a doctor), I can at least offer my suggestions on how to prevent sickness and how to battle it should you catch some germy badness.
Back in February of 2008, I fell victim to a crazy sickness that knocked me on my behind for over two weeks. I missed two straight weeks of college coursework, and my academic adviser actually told that I should drop out of my classes because I had missed so much. (I didn’t drop out and I passed all of my classes, but it was hard playing catch up!)
I was in and out of many doctor’s offices, and no one could tell me what was wrong. I was extremely congested, had the worst sore throat of my life, my mouth was covered in white sores, and all I wanted to do was sleep. It took the combined efforts of my boyfriend (now my husband), my mother, father, and in-laws (at the time they were just my boyfriend’s parents that I had only met twice) to nurse me back to health. I combined all of the treatment methods below with doctor’s prescriptions of antibiotics and steroids—and eventually the sickness from Hades left me.
The memory of that illness is always prominent in my mind, and ever since I have been vigilant with my cold and flu prevention.
Bar the Door! It’s Contaminated out There!
The winter season is the common cold’s playground. It loves to jump from person to person and, if you’re not careful, it will come after you (it's a lover and doesn’t discriminate.) So it is up to you to keep it at bay as best you can. (Unfortunately, telling it that you’re just not that into it doesn’t work.)
Prevention #1: Wash your hands! This is the single best prevention method. If you’re in public service it is extremely important that you become well acquainted with the bathroom sink at work. If you, for whatever reason, cannot wash your hands then I suggest keeping some hand sanitizer or Germ X wipes nearby. They are great for use between hand washings and can be carried in your purse, pocket, or wallet for use anywhere (especially the grocery store and public restrooms). Also, always remember to keep dirty hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes and always wash your hands before eating! I’m not suggesting that you walk like a zombie with your arms outstretched in front of you as you make your way to the nearest restroom (though that couldn’t hurt) but just be conscious of whom you’re shaking hands with, what you’re touching, and how often you’re practicing hand hygiene.
Prevention #2: Avoid going out to eat during cold and flu season. I know that this is probably easier said than done for most folks, but it really could be the difference between staying healthy or feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck. Think about it; many people don’t stay home when they are sick. How can they when they need to make money to pay their bills? This is especially true for part-time employees who don’t have health insurance. Restaurant employees are no exception to this. Many sick people still go to work and prepare your food. I’m not saying that they are sneezing on your salad, but not everyone coughs into their elbow. I know that restaurants have guidelines and health codes that they follow and maybe the managers send sick employees home, but I have worked in food service and I’ve seen many people come to work sick. It’s not pretty, but it happens. You’re much better off staying home and preparing your winter meals yourself, even if it means popping a frozen pizza in the oven.
Prevention #3: Stay hydrated and take your vitamins. Water is always the best beverage to ingest if you’re trying to stay healthy. Not only does it regulate body temperature, but it also helps give us clearer, healthier skin, assists digestion, and is flat out good for your kidneys. There are other ways to stay hydrated without focusing on water alone, such as fruit juices, coffee, tea, Gatorade, and broth to name a few, but it is important to look at the ratio of hydration to sugar or salt content when choosing a food or beverage. Another tip that I have discovered is to stay away from excessive alcohol consumption during cold and flu season. Alcohol causes dehydration and can actually weaken your immune system. So if you insist upon heading out to a restaurant for dinner, at least skip the cocktail. Staying on top of your hydration is a great way to avoid getting a cold, so drink up!
Vitamins are also important to staying healthy because they provide our bodies with the proper nutrients we need to be our best. The diets that many people have nowadays don’t exactly fuel us the way they should, so taking a good multi-vitamin helps to balance out that breakfast burrito that you just popped in the microwave. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives for breakfast you can try a delicious fruit smoothie or a heart-healthy cereal, both of which provide many nutrients that your body needs.
Now that you’ve taken breaks to wash your hands at least three times while reading this we can talk about what happens should that cold find refuge in your body.
A Congestion Relief Miracle Worker!
Is It Sick in Here, or Is It Just Me?
So you caught it. You did all you could do to prevent that little bugger from finding you, but he got to you anyway, didn’t he? I’m sorry. While we can’t take a magic pill and make it disappear right away, we can try to lessen the suffering stage.
Treatment #1: Rest. This is one of the most important treatments to consider when you’re sick. Again, I’m sure this is easier said than done because we have places to go, people to see, and germs to spread, but it really is important that you rest and allow your body time to fight this battle. If you’re able to take a day off from work to pamper your sniffling, coughing self then by all means do it! Stay home, stay hydrated, surround yourself with tissues, and brush up on your Netflix binge watching skills.
Treatment #2: Drink green tea and orange juice. Now, I don’t know all the scientific facts behind these two beverages, but I do know that they've worked for me when I’m sick. I’ve read that green tea is awesome for antioxidants and that OJ is great for vitamin C. If they are just placebo then bring on the ignorance!
Treatment #3: Neilmed sinus rinse kits. I highly recommend this product. You’ve probably seen advertisements for the Neti Pot somewhere and if you’ve never used one before you probably figure that you never will because it looks absolutely ridiculous and kind of gross. A few years ago I would have been right with you in thinking that, but, after a terrible sickness in February of 2008 that left me miserable and struggling to breathe, I was at the end of my rope and gave in to the suggestion of using a sinus irrigation kit. The product that I purchased wasn’t the pot, but instead it was the squeeze bottle version that you fill with lukewarm water and a tiny packet of rinsing solution. It was a God-send. After only a couple of rinses I could breathe again! I could taste my food, and I am convinced that it was the catalyst for my recovery.
Treatment #4: Salt water gargle. If one of your symptoms is a sore throat, I recommend gargling with a mixture of warm water and salt. It’s not a cure, but it definitely helps take away some of the pain if only for a short while. If you don’t want to use salt and water you can always use Listerine or a store brand antiseptic mouth rinse (I recommend the original flavor though, as its trademark burn feels like it’s really killing the most germs).
Treatment #5: Hot soup. This suggestion is often considered to be nothing more than an old wives’ tale, but I know that when I was little and I had a cold, my Mom made chicken soup and not only did I feel better after eating it, but it was down right delicious! To be sure, I wanted to double check and see if there was any credence to the idea of chicken soup being beneficial to a person’s health and I found an article that suggests that there is truth to this theory (see my references, below)! Dr. Stephen Rennard of Omaha, Nebraska, thinks that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties (which would help alleviate congestion) as well as other bonuses that might help with cold symptoms. I’ve provided the link to the article, but if it gets lost out in cyber space somewhere you can either take my word for it and enjoy a bowl of soup, or dig up your own research on the topic.
Treatment #6: Medications. I’m not a huge fan of taking medication when I’m sick. I prefer to let my body tough it out on its own, but sometimes the symptoms are just so excruciating that I give in to the temptation. When I find that I am struggling with the beginnings of a cold the first thing I reach for are Zicam Rapidmelts. They are tiny, coin shaped discs that reduce the duration of your cold (most colds last about a week, but using these melts I would say you can kick it to the curb in about 4 days or less if you’re really lucky) and they help alleviate the severity of your cold symptoms and I swear that they work every time. In the past I’ve used nighttime medications to help me sleep, but I find that using the Zicam melts at the first sign of cold symptoms makes it so I don’t really have to use any other medications. My advice here is to find the medicine that works for you and use it as directed.
Don’t you feel better already? If not, you should go wash your hands again. All kidding aside, I hope that this article helps others out there ward off the germs that cold and flu season usher in and if someone is struggling with a cold, I hope my suggested treatments help alleviate their symptoms.
In closing I would just like to point out that treatment methods outnumber my prevention methods. So wouldn’t you rather do three or four things to prevent getting sick, rather than having to do six or more while feeling like garbage?
Also, pay attention to your body and what it is trying to tell you, if you feel ill and home treatment isn't helping please see your doctor.
- Wash your hands
- Eat at home
- Stay Hydrated
- Take your vitamins
- Stay hydrated with water, green tea, or orange juice
- Rinse your sinuses
- Gargle with saltwater (or Listerine)
- Eat hot soup
- Take medicine (if you feel you need it)
Tips for cold prevention and treatment:
- Clayton, Jessica Dalessio. 5 Fast Tips for Preventing Colds. Jan. 22, 2015. EverydayHealth.com. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-flu/preventing-cold-and-flu.aspx)
- Fryhofer, Sandra Adamson, MD. Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu. WebMD.com. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/cold-flu-prevention-tips#1)
How hot soup can help a cold:
- Schorr, Melissa. "Chicken Soup Really Is Good for a Cold." Oct. 17. ABC News. (abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117888&page=1)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
C Levrow (author) from Michigan on February 26, 2011:
Reading is an excellent way to deal with a cold. Excellent suggestion, Dolores and thank you for your comment. :)
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 26, 2011:
Great tips for dealing with a cold. If I feel a cold or the flu coming on, the first thing I do is run to the local library and check out some simple pop type easy to read mystery novels. Nothing like a compelling, yet not to hard to focus on, book to keep you stretched out on the sofa!