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How to Get Rid of a Cold

Updated on September 24, 2009

The title of this article is a bit misleading because you can't cure the common cold outright -- but you absolutely can reduce the effects if you act quickly enough; thereby rendering that particular rhinovirus very benign, indeed. Some of you get colds every month no matter the climate, and some of you may only get a cold once a year, if that. Your immune system plays a big part in whether or not you catch the virus in the first place, but it's your immediate attention to the illness that will determine how bad it gets. Now, if you're a kid, you might actually staying home from school due to having a bad cold, but if you're an adult and can't afford to be ill, read on for ways of preventing the common cold and reducing its potency once you've got it.

How do you catch a cold?

Prevention is and always will be the best case scenario when it comes to colds, but you've first got to understand how the rhinovirus is acquired. You do not get a cold by sharing a drink with someone whose got a cold -- that is a myth (although I can't say I'd recommend sharing that drink with them anyway.) You catch a cold through your NOSE, and most of you do that via your hands. Let me give you an example: Sally is sitting in front of you on the bus. She sneezes (or coughs), catches the droplets in her hand and then wipes it on her pant leg. The virus is actually still on her hands, so when she gets up and grabs the handrail, she deposits a bit of that virus on it. When it's your turn to get up and you grab that same handrail, you pick her virus up. If you then rub your nose, pick your nose or whatever afterward, you deposit that virus in your nasal passage -- and that virus will work its way back to your throat in about 10 or 15 minutes. Half a day later, your virus is ready to get to work.

How do you prevent a cold?

Like I said, prevention is the best form of treatment in this case, and the best method of preventing the common cold is keeping your nose clean. To do that, you'll want to keep it free of viruses that create colds. And to do that, you'll want to keep your hands away from your nose as much as possible, unless you've just washed them. If your hands are virus-free when you touch your nose, no worries. But the only way you can be sure they are is, as I've said, if they've just been washed. If you've got to itch your nose but your hands aren't clean, use a tissue. If you've not got one of those try your shirtsleeve or arm (unless you've got a runny nose, in which case you should find a tissue!). If you've got to use your hand, use the back of it as it's less likely to have come in contact with viruses than your fingers.

It doesn't hurt to carry round a packet of handiwipes, either, but do yourselves a favor and stick to traditional, regular soapy wipes and leave the anti-bacterial products alone -- bacteria is everywhere and it's perfectly normal to have it on you most of the time. If you're constantly attacking the normal bacteria for no good reason you will eventually contribute to the evolution of super bacteria, which anti-bacterial wipes won't be able to destroy. It's best to just let yourself keep a natural immunity to these things and clean yourself with regular soap and water products; same goes for your kids.

How do you get rid of a cold?

Even in this century we still don't have a cure for the common cold, but you can certainly reduce the effects and misery associated with having one. As a singer I can't afford to get ill and cancel gigs so I had to learn very quickly how to best cope with having a rhinovirus and minimize the symptoms. What I'm going to list here is what works best for me, but feel free to modify it if you'd like.

  • Gargle with warm salt water -- This is something that needs to be done as soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary in your nose or throat. The goal is to change the pH and thereby hopefully discourage the virus from getting out hand. This doesn't always work, but it has been effective for me on the occasions I've tried it within a couple of hours of noticing a cold was coming on.
  • Chewable Zinc / Vitamin C tablets -- Note that I said chewable. I get these in a combination form and take them according to that particular package's directions, which is usually 2 or 3 a day in my case. If I've got stuff going on in the back of my throat at the time I notice an immediate improvement when I eat one of these.

  • Theraflu / Coldrex -- Depending on what country you live in you'll be familiar with either or. These are hot drink mixes that contain meds to reduce aches, fever and control your sinus drip. There may be other variations which act as a decongestant as well, but I've never used those myself. Both of these products, when taken the first day you notice symptoms, can nearly cure you that same day. And if they don't, they will make you feel good enough that the minor symptoms won't bother you.
  • Throat Lozenges -- If you're out and about be sure to take some throat lozenges with you in case the need arises. Continuously swallowing a post-nasal drip can really stress your throat out and lead to unnecessary pain. A few throat lozenges per day can usually prevent that from happening. Personally, I like a honey and lemon combination.

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