10 Ways to Stop a Cold in Its Tracks
By Jessica Levine
Adults average two to four colds a year, and the typical upper respiratory infection takes up to 10 days to get over. But that first sniffle, throat tickle, or cough doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
It turns out there are cold-fighting heroes out there.
1. Pop zinc.
It’s not false advertising. Research shows taking zinc (the active ingredient in Zicam) lozenges, tablets, or syrup within a day of your first symptoms can reduce both their severity and duration. Taking a supplement regularly can help, too. (Click here to find out the Top 10 Supplements for Men.)
2. Then find Zen.
“When you’re under stress, your immune system ends up under-reacting to viral and bacterial infections,” says Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D., internist and past president of the American College of Physicians. Perhaps that’s why University of Wisconsin researchers found mindfulness meditation training reduced the incidence, duration, and severity of a cold by 35 to 60 percent.
3. Jack up your H2O intake.
“Hydration helps keep your nasal passages moist, so they can actually get rid of little particles from bacteria,” Dr. Fryhofer says.
4. Make like Grandpa and gargle.
Evidence shows gargling with water a few times a day during cold and flu season may also help flush out bugs.
5. Pop a probiotic.
In a recent study, probiotic supplements shortened the duration of a cold from 6 days to 4, made symptoms a third less severe, and halved the number of days subjects stayed home. Look for the strains LGG and BB12.
6. Try an herbal remedy.
There’s evidence a little known herb by the name of Pelargonium sidoides can reduce a cold’s severity, duration, and the number of days it knocks you horizontal. Like zinc, these drops should be taken at the first signs of sniffles. Look for brand name Umcka in the homeopathic aisle.
7. Hop on the D train.
It seems like no coincidence that colds hit hardest when the sun is lowest. And some research has supported 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for adults during cold season to reduce risk and speed recovery.
8. Pause your workout.
Regular moderate exercise is best for warding off bugs, research shows. But once you’ve caught a cold, take a rest. “You just need to listen to your body,” Dr. Fryhofer says. “Don’t try to push through it.” Are you too sick to work out? Click here for more guidelines to help you decide.
9. Get garlic breath.
Used as a home remedy for its supposed antimicrobial and antiviral superpowers, garlic hasn’t been formally studied much. However, some evidence shows it may ward off colds. Try a supplement or crush a clove with dinner.
10. Head to bed.
Since sleep boosts immune function, that “pre-cold” may be a good indicator that you haven’t been getting enough lately. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept less than 7 hours a night were three times more susceptible to colds than those who slept 8 or more hours per night. Need help? Discover How to Snooze Like a Baby—No Matter Your Age.