In the hustle and bustle of life, being sidelined by sickness is never convenient. We’ve all been there, brushing off those early warning signs of an impending cold—clearing your throat more than usual, feeling unusually tired, or battling that persistent itch in the back of your throat. However, it’s crucial to resist the urge to soldier on and instead take action quickly. Ignoring these initial symptoms can often result in a more prolonged and unpleasant period of illness and potentially spread to other individuals who might have a more vulnerable immune system. Here are expert tips on what to do when you start feeling common cold symptoms.
Cancel Your Plans
When you sense a cold coming on, do yourself a favour and cancel your plans. Don’t let the fear of missing out keep you from taking a break, getting extra rest, and prioritizing your well-being.
“There’s a lot of truth to the idea that sleep is the best medicine,” Dr. Filip Swirski, a sleep and immune system researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, shared with Everyday Health. “We know that sleep disruption affects the rhythm and production of immune cells, and if there is a challenge to the immune system (such as an infection or injury), a single night of poor sleep can affect the response,” he says.
Recognizing the early signs of a cold and allowing yourself to get a few extra hours of sleep is an essential step in taking care of yourself when you’re sick. Embrace the opportunity to spend all day in your favourite sweats, binge-watch your favourite shows, and take an extra nap or two. Your body will thank you.
Although the mandates have long been lifted, wearing a mask is a proven way to stop the spread of cold, flu and other respiratory illnesses. While wearing masks may bring back some difficult memories from 2020, their efficacy in preventing the spread of respiratory infections is well-established. After all, public spaces, exceptionally crowded areas and public transportation can become breeding grounds for the transmission of viruses. Wearing a mask in these situations is like an extra layer of protection—you never know how it might make a difference in preventing the transmission of illnesses.
With studies revealing that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, it becomes imperative to prioritize hydration, especially during times of illness. If you struggle to consume enough water or liquids on a good day, you need to be extra vigilant about staying hydrated when you feel unwell. Proper hydration significantly supports your body’s immune response and can lead to quicker recovery. In many cases, drinking electrolytes can help you stay hydrated faster.
Riley Lipschitz, an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, explained the science behind electrolytes in the Washington Post. “Those products have a little bit of salt in them, and what the salt does is it keeps the fluid in your blood vessels and, in turn, keeps your blood pressure up,” Lipschitz says.
Fortunately, there’s no longer a need to turn to the sugary sports drinks of your childhood. Now, there are sugar-free alternatives like Hydralyte that are readily available.
Take Vitamin C
It turns out our parents are right: Vitamins really do help your immune system. Once you start feeling an itchy throat or feel weirdly sluggish, it’s time to take some extra vitamin C. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a vitamin C supplement could shorten a cold by around 8% for adults and 18% for kids, according to researchers. During a usual week-long illness, you might start feeling better about 13 hours sooner, Dr. Donalf Ford explains.
Gargle With Salt Water
When it comes to home remedies for colds, sometimes the most accessible solutions are the most effective. Penn State medicine reports that gargling several times daily with warm salt water (half a teaspoon of salt in 1 cup) can help soothe a sore throat. According to a 2019 study by the Edinburgh Medical School, “The homemade remedy was shown to shorten the length of a cold by almost two days and reduce the need for over-the-counter medicines by a third.”
Turn On Your Humidifier
Purchasing a humidifier can be one of the best investments to protect your health during cold and flu season. As reported in Medline Plus, “Using a humidifier in the home can help relieve a stuffy nose and can help break up mucus so you can cough it up. Humidified air can relieve the discomfort of colds and the flu.” Luckily, you don’t have to spend much money to get an easy-to-clean and effective humidifier.