After almost emptying my second box of tissues in two days, I think it’s time I talk about colds.
Typically, I’m either really lucky, or I have a really good immune system, or both. I rarely get sick – it makes me feel invincible. . . up until I finally catch a cold and it’s a doozy. I whine, I moan, I cough, I groan, and I sneeze until my ears pop.
Sitting around complaining about a cold doesn’t do me or my body a lot of good.
I must take action!
If you’re also suffering from a mid-winter head cold, here are my tried-and-true tips for fighting off the misery.
You’ve probably heard the old phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While prevention and cure aren’t measurable in units, I couldn’t agree more with the principle. I think part of the reason I rarely get sick is because I tend to live a fairly healthy life – though there’s always room for improvement, of course.
Eating right is key to staying healthy – I’m sure you’ve had the concept pounded into your head since you were little, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Keeping your diet in balance gives your immune system the tools it needs to fight off bacteria and infection during times of stress. In fact, WebMD experts recommend eating dark green, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables as a natural prevention for common colds. 
Get Plenty of Sleep
Due to my easy-to-manage work hours, my sleeping schedule is consistent. I get up at the same time every morning, and sometimes my body wakes up just a few minutes before my alarm clock simply because it’s used to that time.
While I tend to go to bed at slightly different times, it’s still fairly consistent. I aim for about 7 hours of sleep a night – with 8 as the ideal (but sometimes not always achievable). In the instances I don’t get all the sleep I need at night, I take a small nap when I get home from work to recharge my batteries.
Turns out, this is a fairly good technique for fighting off colds.
According to William Ellert, M.D., chief medical officer of the Phoenix Baptist Hospital, “sleep regulates the release of the hormone cortisol, which stimulates cells that boost the immune system.”
Take a Multivitamin
While I try to eat healthy, as mentioned above, I’m not perfect. There are plenty of days when I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables or I pig out on too much pizza rather than too much spinach. On those days, I like to take a multivitamin to give my body the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy. While vitamin C is often touted as a great immunity booster, a multivitamin covers all the bases.
I prefer Vitafusion Multi-vite, Gummy Vitamins For Adults because they taste yummy. I know there are a lot of other vitamins available though, so don’t feel limited to what I recommend. I’m sure you can find an even better one to suit your needs.
I like to think of myself as a laid-back person. A lot of things like stubbing my toe or forgetting my lunch or going to work don’t completely ruin my day when they happen. I take it as it comes and then let it go.
However, with the recent scare of possibly losing my job,, I’ve had a lot of stresses and worries weighing me down, most of them financial. Consequently, it comes as no surprise I caught a cold.
As it turns out, stress compromises the immune system. If you want to understand more about how it works, I suggest you read this interesting Mayo Clinic article: Chronic stress puts your health at risk.
Well, prevention is all well and fine, up until you actually catch a cold. Even though I practiced my best techniques for preventing a cold, I still caught one and now I have to deal with it.
Use Soft Tissues
During a cold, my nose can’t make up its mind – it’s running like a leaky faucet one minute and then backed up like a clogged toilet the next. No matter how much I blow my nose, my body still produces mucous at alarming rates.
Regular toilet paper will tear the skin right off your nose with all the rubbing and sniffling.
The softer the tissue, the better.
I prefer using Puffs Plus Lotion Facial Tissues because they’re soft and affordable. I’m not a big fan of Puffs tissues with Vick’s vapor rub inside them though, the smell is so strong it stings my eyes but isn’t enough to clear my nasal passages.
Trick: Rubbing medicated chapstick with menthol on your nose keeps your nose from being getting too sore and the menthol sometimes clears nasal passages to an extent. Sucking on a tic-tac sometimes helps, too; it clears your nose just a bit (because of the menthol).
Also, it helps to blow your nose correctly! Snorting it to the back of your throat and then spitting it out or blowing so hard you sound like a trumpet is not only disgusting but can force mucus back into the sinuses. It’s better to blow softly, and if needed, press one finger against one nostril to close it (so the other one blows more freely).
Take Lots of Naps
Colds tend to get worse at night, and the moment you lay down all the congestion tends to rush to your head. This makes sleep extremely difficult when you have a cold, even though sleep is crucial for healing. So, compromise and sleep whenever you can get it – even if it’s during the middle of the day.
Chicken Noodle Soup for the Win
It might surprise you, but chicken soup really is good for fighting off colds. Mayo Clinic experts explain:
“Chicken soup might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining.”
I’m a big fan of Progresso Traditional Soup, Hearty Chicken and Rotini, not for any particular reason – it just happens to be my favorite kind of store-bought soup. I’m sure there’s a home-made soup that’s loads healthier and gets the job done better.
Eat Salty Snacks
Even as I type this article, I’m eating air-popped popcorn and getting salt all over my laptop keyboard. Up until now, I never knew why eating salty snacks worked with colds, but I figured it was the same principle as salt on a slug – it dries out the gunk!
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
While I don’t typically get a fever, it seems as though my body temperature does go out of whack whenever I have a cold. Sometimes I can’t quite get comfortably warm, while other times I’m too hot.
For those times I can’t quite warm up, a long hot shower keeps me cozy, and the steam clears up my congestion for a time. The warmth also relaxes achy muscles and soothes me enough to get some sleep.
Cuddle a Heat Pack
Ever since I was young, my mom made these cute little bags that were filled with rice or wheat. They were then heated in the microwave for one or two minutes, depending on the size of the bag (they both work, but the wheat smells like bread which is always a plus). The bags were perfect for warming toes at night or for relaxing aching muscles, much like a hot water bottle or icy hot pack.
If you want to learn how to make one yourself, this Instructables article gives some basic step-by-step instructions for making a rice bag at home.
Try an OTC Cold and Flu Medication
While I’m familiar with a wide variety of diet pill ingredients, I’ve yet to research cold medication enough to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.
I know menthol makes a great decongestant and acetaminophen reduces pain and fever. Antihistamines alleviate congestion to an extent, but I haven’t found a medication I’m fully convinced works for me. Some cold and flu medications give me insane mood swings, while others take hours before kicking in and I don’t always notice when they work.
If you have some suggestions, then by all means comment about them below!
When All Else Fails: Go to a Doctor
I’m not to this point yet, but going to a doctor is not throwing in the towel. Sometimes you have to deal with the symptoms in a smart way – and that includes taking expert advice from professionals rather than bloggers.
If over the counter medicines aren’t getting the job done, then a few prescription options may be worth trying. And of course, if symptoms persist or are more severe than a few sniffles and sneezes, it could be indicative of a more serious condition.
 “8 Natural Tips to Help Prevent a Cold.” WebMD. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/11-tips-prevent-cold-flu
 Wells, Elizabeth. “6 Natural Cold-Prevention Strategies.” Real Simple. Available from: http://www.realsimple.com/health/preventative-health/cold-flu-allergies/drug-free-cold-prevention-00000000044630/
 “Vitamin C for the Common Cold.” WebMD. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/vitamin-c-for-common-cold
 “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt.” Mayo Clinic. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403
Satomura K, et. al. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.”Am J Prev Med. 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593
 Moyad MA. “Conventional and alternative medical advice for cold and flu prevention: what should be recommended and what should be avoided?” Urol Nurs. 2009 Nov-Dec;29(6):455-8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20088240
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