conquer the common cold with these surefire tips
As important as regular check-ups and great health insurance are to your wellbeing, even they're no match against the common cold.
This pesky bug has plagued us since the beginning of civilization itself. The ancient Egyptians had cold-related hieroglyphs, the 5th-century Greek physician Hippocrates noted that the cold occurs more in the winter, and the Aztecs treated this ailment by mixing together chili pepper, honey, and tobacco.
As we all know by now, the common cold is a highly contagious respiratory illness typically involving a runny or stuffy nose, coughing, and a sore throat. Because a cold rarely becomes a serious health problem, we tend to regard it as an incurable nuisance.
So, how do you shake it? To help keep you sniffle-free, we've compiled a list of proven ways to avoid, and beat, the common cold.
How to prevent a cold
- Practice healthy habits
As you probably know, healthy habits strengthen your immune system. Do your best to get enough sleep and exercise, and try to stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods. Managing your stress well can also help your body stay healthy.
- Avoid germs
If someone around you has a cold, keep your distance. Colds can be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, or by coming in contact with an infected person, either directly or via a contaminated surface.
- Wash your hands
People are contagious the day before they experience symptoms and about 5 days after. To keep germs away, wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, and refrain from touching your face.
Another alternative is alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which are as effective as hand washing according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, anti-bacterial soaps have no added benefit since colds are viral.
- Go outside
Finally, go outside more! Though many of us think colder temperatures are the culprit, it's actually staying inside with central heating that dries you out and makes your body more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Just remember to dress warmly when embracing the great outdoors!
How to treat a cold
So you've come down with a cold. Don't be too hard on yourself. It's estimated that adults have, on average, 2 to 4 colds a year and children as many as 6 to 10.
Though there's no cure, get relief by taking good care of yourself and treating the symptoms as best you can:
- Take care of yourself
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, gargling with warm salt water, and using cough drops, throat sprays, or over-the-counter pain or cold medicines.
- Weigh the side effects
If you're thinking about taking an over-the counter medicine to alleviate your symptoms, check the side effects to make sure they're worth it (and avoid driving if they cause drowsiness).
- Avoid certain drinks
Refrain from beverages containing caffeine or alcohol since they cause dehydration and can make you feel worse when fighting a cold.
- Consider alternatives
Zinc gluconate and megadoses of vitamin C, along with warm chicken soup, saunas, and steam rooms, reputedly do wonders — though studies are inconclusive and relief may only be temporary.
- Don't spread the germs
Stay home if you can. But if you can't, cover your mouth or nose with a tissue (or even your sleeve) when you cough or sneeze so you don't spread germs through the air. And rather than sneezing into your hand, sneeze into the crook of your arm since that area touches fewer surfaces.
Colds usually take anywhere from several days to 2 weeks to leave your system. However, if your cold lingers or gets worse, consult a physician. You may have the flu or a bacterial infection.
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