Caught a cold or the flu? Feel better fast with these tips
You know the signs: coughing, runny nose, sore throat and other misery. It’s cold and flu season, and no workplace, home or classroom is beyond those pesky respiratory germs’ reach.
Even when you give your immune system top-notch support ( For more information check out our October Immune Support blog ) colds and flu can still strike. Peak cold and flu season in the United States is usually December through February (unfortunately, just in time for holiday gatherings).
If you do get knocked down by a respiratory virus this winter, you don’t have to just suffer through it. You can help your body fight back, feel better and recover faster.
Let’s take a look at how to get rid of cold and flu symptoms, including natural and holistic remedies that support your immune system.
What causes the common cold?
The common cold is caused by one of more than 200 viruses. The most common is the human rhinovirus, as well as parainfluenza and seasonal coronaviruses (different than SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19).
As a respiratory virus, the common cold spreads from person to person through inhaling virus particles. Usually this is through coughing, sneezing or even speaking. Rhinoviruses can survive up to 3 hours on your hands and on hard surfaces.
What are symptoms of the common cold?
Cold symptoms can affect the nose, head and whole body:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sinus pressure
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches
Flu symptoms: How to tell if you have a cold or the flu?
The common cold and influenza (flu) share many of the symptoms above, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by influenza virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it can be difficult or impossible to determine if someone has a cold vs. flu from symptoms alone. A flu test can determine if you have the flu.
Flu symptoms usually begin more suddenly than a cold, and make people feel worse. People with the flu are less likely to have a runny or stuffy nose than people with a cold. Other common flu symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and headaches.
Cold symptoms are typically milder than flu, RSV or COVID-19 symptoms and are less likely to result in serious health problems or complications like pneumonia and infection.
Home remedies for cough and cold symptoms
While there isn’t any cure for the common cold, you can focus on managing your symptoms so you feel better while the illness runs its course. Most colds take 7-10 days to resolve.
Here are some tried-and-true tips:
- Rest. It’s normal to feel more sleepy than usual while you’re sick. The immune system needs extra sleep to recharge and fight off illness. Try to get 8-10 hours of sleep at night while you’re recovering.
- Hydrate. Your body uses more fluids when you’re sick, especially if you’re sweating from a fever. Drinking plenty of liquids like warm water, tea with lemon, and broth will help you stay hydrated. Avoid drinks with sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
- Take Vitamin C. Studies show that Vitamin C may shorten the duration of a cold.
- Take zinc. Studies also show that zinc lozenges may cut the length of a cold.
- Eat a spoonful of honey. Honey can help soothe a sore throat, promote better sleep and reduce nighttime coughing.
- Try echinacea. Studies suggest that taking echinacea may shorten or even prevent a cold. Talk to your doctor before taking echinacea to make sure it won’t interfere with other medicines you take.
- Take black elderberry syrup. This traditional remedy is used in many parts of the world to fight colds. A study showed elderberry shortened the length of colds in people with flu-like symptoms. Another placebo-controlled, double-blind study in 2016 showed that elderberry significantly reduced the duration and severity of colds among airplane travelers.
- Get a humidifier. The warm, moist air from a humidifier is thought to help loosen mucus and ease congestion.
- Use a neti pot. A net pot can help relieve nasal congestion by clearing out your nasal passages with warm saline solution. Mucus and allergens are forced out. Make sure to ask your doctor if a neti pot is right for you, and follow the instructions carefully (i.e., don’t use tap water due to risk of bacteria).
- Gargle with warm salt water. A salt-water gargle can help soothe a sore throat and loosen mucus. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, then gargle.
- Avoid food and drinks that worsen symptoms. Stay away from sugar, sugary soda drinks, alcohol, dairy and salty foods. These can cause inflammation and dehydration, making you feel worse.
When to call the doctor about a cold or flu
Call your doctor if:
- You have a fever higher than 101 degrees or a sore throat for more than 3 days
- Your symptoms get worse or new ones develop
- You have shortness of breath or chest pain
- You have sinus pain
- Your symptoms last longer than 10-14 days
How to boost your immune system so you don’t get sick
Now that we’ve reviewed what to do if you catch a cold or the flu this winter, let’s recap the best ways avoid getting sick in the first place.
There is no vaccine for the common cold, unlike the flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to take additional steps to protect your immune system anyway, since the flu vaccination and COVID-19 shot aren’t foolproof.
Here are some easy but effective suggestions to prevent catching a cold, flu or other illness:
- Wash your hands. One of the most important things you can do to fight off sickness. Plain soap and water are all you need, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
- Get more sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with lower immune response to fighting off cold and flu germs in multiple studies. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Manage your stress. Stress can negatively affect your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick and lengthening your healing process.
- Exercise regularly. Being more active can strengthen your immune system. Aim for 30 minutes of activity each day.
- Eat better. Eating healthy foods with plenty of vitamins and minerals helps your body fight off illness, support gut health and manage weight. Vitamin C, found in oranges and other citrus fruits, is especially well-known for its immune supporting properties.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can impact organ function and digestion, which makes you more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu.
Some of our favorite natural remedies for immune support during cold and flu season are:
- ImmunityPlus™, a liquid formula herbal supplement that supports the immune system, cellular health, liver health and overall well-being.
- Immune Defense™ – 14 Mushroom Blend, a blend of 14 organic medicinal mushrooms. This liquid formula supports immune health, especially during chronic stress, promotes healthy energy levels, and improves strength.
- KiddieBoost™, a special formula to promote healthy immune function and support blood flow throughout the body. Developed for toddlers and kids over 12 months old.
- Elderberry+ Immune Support™, to help restore and support immune function. Formulated with free radical-destroying antioxidants found in elderberry fruit.
No one enjoys sniffling, sneezing, coughing and all the other miserable cold and flu symptoms. A strong immune system is the key to defending your body against these respiratory viruses. If you do get sick, there are effective natural and holistic remedies available to help you feel better fast.
ZZZZ…Why You Need a Good Night’s Sleep https://nativeremedies.blog/2020/10/01/zzzzwhy-you-need-a-good-nights-sleep/
Healing Herbs for the Kitchen https://nativeremedies.blog/2020/07/02/healing-herbs-for-the-kitchen/
Holistic Health Support for a Healthier You https://nativeremedies.blog/2019/10/01/holistic-health-support-for-a-healthier-you/
- “Cold Remedies: What works, what doesn’t, and what can’t hurt.” Mayo. Clinic. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403
- Stanborough, R. “From A to Zinc: How to Get Rid of a Cold Fast.” Healthline. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/how-to-get-rid-of-a-cold-fast
- “The Do’s and Don’ts of Easing Cold Symptoms.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-dos-and-donts-of-easing-cold-symptoms
- “Home Remedies for the Common Cold.” Cleveland Clinic. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-get-rid-of-a-cold/
- “Cold vs. Flu.” Centers for Disease Control CDC. Accessed November 30, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm
- “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.” Centers for Disease Control. Accessed November 30, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
- “Overview of the Immune System.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Accessed November 30, 2022. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview