How to Get Rid of a Cold: Medically Approved Home Remedies

Written by Dr Nelson Lau, MBBS FRACGP, GP & Digital Health Specialist

The first tickle in your throat and that telltale nose sniffle tells you what’s coming – it’s a cold – that uninvited guest throwing a germ-filled party in your body. While there’s no instant fix to get rid of it, there are smart strategies to soothe your woes, support your immune system, and potentially cut the illness short. Let’s delve into how to get rid of a cold and a few natural home remedies. 

Understanding Causes of Cold

To vanquish an enemy, first, you must understand its tactics. Colds are caused by over 

200 different viruses, most commonly rhinoviruses. These crafty viruses spread through infected droplets coughed, sneezed, or breathed into the air. This is why washing your hands and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing are your first lines of defence.

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How to Get Rid of a Cold: Your Action Plan

Sadly, there’s no magic potion to erase a cold overnight. The key is supporting your body’s tireless immune response while making the ordeal as bearable as possible. Here’s your survival toolkit:

1. Rest, Rest, Rest

Your body is fighting a war, so treat it like a wounded soldier. Sleep and downtime are crucial for immune function. Cancel what you can snuggle up, and don’t feel guilty about those midday naps.

2. Fluids

Fluids are your allies. Water, herbal teas, and broths thin the mucous, ease congestion, and soothe a scratchy throat. Chamomile tea is a gentle soother, while ginger adds a kick to boost circulation. Warm fluids before bed can also help you fall asleep more easily.

3. Steam

Create your steam room. Hot showers or inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water (with a towel over your head) work wonders. Warm, moist air loosens mucous and relieves that “can’t breathe” feeling. 

4. Honey Powerhouse

Nature’s golden remedy is a delicious weapon against a sore throat. Honey has mild antibacterial properties and a soothing coat that eases irritation. Enjoy a spoonful plain, stir it into warm water or tea, or make soothing lozenges by combining honey with lemon and ginger. 

5. Sore Throat Soothers

That scratchy, burning feeling in your throat can be miserable. Gargle with warm salt water several times a day to ease inflammation. Throat lozenges with natural ingredients like licorice root or slippery elm can offer temporary numbing relief and extra moisture.

6. Aromatherapy Oils

Essential oils can be a fragrant friend during a cold. Diffusing a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil can help clear congestion and uplift your mood. Just be sure to use a diffuser designed for essential oils, and dilute them properly with water to avoid irritation.

7. Spicy Food

While spicy food won’t cure your cold, the capsaicin in chilli peppers can provide temporary relief. That fiery kick loosens mucus and can make breathing a little easier.

Cold Myths: Debunking Ineffective Remedies

When you’re miserable, it’s easy to fall for quick-fix promises. But save your energy (and money) by avoiding these unhelpful tactics:

  • The Vitamin C Conundrum: While vitamin C supports a healthy immune system, megadoses won’t make your cold disappear once symptoms hit.
  • Antibiotics Aren’t the Answer: These weapons only combat bacteria, not viruses. Unnecessary antibiotic use fuels dangerous antibiotic resistance.
  • Zinc Lozenges: The hype around zinc for colds started because some studies suggested it might shorten the duration of symptoms. However, the evidence is mixed. The type of zinc, the dosage, and how early you start using it seem to influence whether it makes any difference. While they likely won’t hurt most people, they can cause nausea and an unpleasant metallic taste.
  • Echinacea: This herbal supplement is widely marketed for cold prevention and treatment. But research has shown very little if any, actual benefit. It’s relatively safe for short-term use in healthy people, but it can interact with certain medications, so always talk to your doctor before trying it.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Most colds are self-limiting, meaning they run their course in a week or two. However, certain red flags signal it’s time for professional help:

  • High fever that won’t break, worsening symptoms, or severe pain
  • Trouble breathing or persistent cough
  • Cold hanging on for more than two weeks
  • Underlying health conditions that make you more vulnerable to complications

The Telehealth Advantage: Getting Help Without the Germ Spread

Telehealth doctors are an effective way to get a review by a health professional. They can diagnose, advise, and even prescribe medications if needed. It’s a win-win: you get care and avoid the need and risk of sitting in a shared waiting room. Get a Telehealth doctor’s appointment in minutes to combat cold. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will this last?

Usually 7-10 days, but be prepared for a lingering cough. If you’re not improving by then, a doctor check is wise.

Does blowing your nose help get rid of a cold faster?

Yes, but be gentle. Aggressive nose-blowing irritates your passages. Do it one nostril at a time.

Should I take a hot shower if I have a cold?

Steam can help, but overly long, scalding-hot showers can dehydrate you. Keep it warm and limit the time.

Is fresh air good for a cough and cold?

It won’t cure your cold, but unless you’re feverish, a short walk in nature can break cabin fever and offer a boost to your mood.

Colds are a nuisance, but usually a temporary one. Support your body’s defences, stay patient, and you’ll soon be back to your normal self.

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.