I rarely get a cold, but when I do, my one and only thought is to get rid of it as soon as possible. For a minor illness, it really is amazing how miserable a cold can make you feel.
Experts say the common cold may linger for two to ten days on average. I have found that mine last longer than they did when I was in my teens or twenties, probably because the immune system naturally declines with age.
The best strategy is to just dodge these viruses altogether. You can do it. Here are some things to avoid. . .
- Not Enough ShuteyeIf you’re one of my long-time readers, you know I repeatedly emphasize the benefits of sleep. Poor sleep habits increase your risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s – and of the common cold.
In fact, sleep is especially important when it comes to colds. According to a new Carnegie Mellon University study,1 folks who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are three times more likely to get a cold than those who average eight or more.
What’s more, study subjects who missed sleep for as little as 8% of the time while they were lying in bed were 5.5 times more apt to get sniffles than those who slept throughout the night. In other words, both quality and quantity of sleep make a difference.
The study’s lead author, Sheldon Cohen, said this was the first evidence that even minor sleep disturbances can influence the body’s reaction to cold viruses. He notes that this is “yet another reason why people should make time in their schedules to get a complete night of rest.”
And if you aren’t feeling well because of a cold, sleep is even more important because it helps your body fight the infection. Yes, I know, it sounds like a cliché, but if you want to kick that cold you must get plenty of rest. Don’t ignore how tired your body feels — it’s working hard to recover!
- Playing the “I’m not really sick” gameChances are you or someone you know has a habit of playing this game. Believe me, no one wins! Even if you’re busy and a lot of people depend on you, don’t be a martyr and attempt to carry on as usual. Not only are you exposing everyone you know and love to your germs, but you’re also preventing your body from getting well quickly.
- Misusing AntibioticsI understand that when you are feeling miserable, you want to feel better pronto and by any means possible. For many folks this means rushing to a doctor and demanding antibiotics. No one should take antibiotics for a cold, and no reputable doctor should prescribe them. Period. Antibiotics do not kill viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary or inappropriate.
Besides being useless against viruses, overuse of these drugs breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which have become one of the world’s biggest health threats. Thanks to people using antibiotics when we shouldn’t, they are no longer effective when we need them. It gets worse: While doing nothing for your cold, taking an antibiotic drug can inflict a host of side effects including allergic reactions, intestinal woes and diarrhea
- Skipping FluidsJust as country doctors used to advise, when you have a cold you need to drink plenty of fluids. Here’s why …
If you get dehydrated, your cold symptoms will likely get worse. You absolutely must replace all the fluids you lose when you’re suffering from a constant dripping nose, open mouth breathing or drying up of nose and sinuses from use of decongestants.
Plus, when you are sick your body becomes a mucus making machine, and thick mucus doesn’t vamoose from the body readily. However, water offers moisture to help loosen and thin the mucus so it can vacate your body quickly. When moist, your mucous membranes are better at trapping and flushing the virus invading your nasal cavities.
Juice, water and herbal tea are all good choices. And – as most people have probably heard by now –chicken soup does help. This is a home remedy that truly works. All of these liquids help flush out the toxins and general yuck that is invading your body.
I also swear by a Neti pot and clean humidifier. In the cold parts of the country, most homes and buildings are far too dry during the winter, and few people use a humidifier. The result is dried-out mouth, lung and nose membranes that can actually get so bad they bleed. This damaged tissue is fertile ground for cold and flu germs – and feels miserable to boot.
Supplements that prevent or treat colds
I learned about black elderberry extracts years ago and found they were invaluable for treating a cold. For me, they cut by half the time I suffer from symptoms. Sometimes the relief is nearly instant.
These days, I take a low dose of elderberry extract all winter to prevent colds – and I think this is one of the reasons I seldom get them. If I think I’ve been exposed to someone who has a cold, I up the dose for several days.
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is another immune-boosting supplement I take year-round. It raises the level of glutathione, your body’s natural antioxidant that it makes for itself.
I suspect that if everyone took these two supplements we’d see few colds or cases of flu. By the way, I don’t get flu vaccines – I’ve never had one. I just take my supplements, sit back, and watch my friends who had a flu shot come down with colds and flu.