Colds are so common that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults can expect to get about two colds per year. Although a cold is usually not dangerous, it can leave a person feeling awful.
There is currently no cure for a cold but there are several home remedies that may reduce symptoms. Symptoms of a cold include a sore throat, nasal congestion, coughing and aches and pains.
Fortunately, most home remedies do not have any side effects, so even if they only offer limited help, they will not do any harm.
Eight common home remedies
Consider the following eight common home remedies:
A common home remedy is to gargle with warm saltwater or honey and lemon juice.
This old-school remedy can ease a sore throat, which is often one of the first symptoms of a cold. People can choose from a variety of saltwater gargle recipes, including gargling with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in a cup of warm water.
Another option is gargling with warm water that is mixed with half a teaspoon of lemon juice and honey. With any gargling solutions, people should be sure that the water is not too hot, which can lead to burns.
2. Sipping fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration and may thin mucus. Water is the best bet when it comes to staying well hydrated. Other liquids such as juice are also acceptable.
Tea with lemon and honey and other hot drinks may help break up congestion and ease a sore throat. Hot soup, especially spicy soups, may promote nasal drainage and make breathing easier.
People who have a cold should avoid alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.
Breathing in steam from a hot shower may decrease nasal congestion and sinus pressure, at least temporarily. An alternative to a hot shower is filling a pot with boiling water, placing a towel over the head and breathing in the steam.
Steam soothes the tissues of the nose and throat and to make steam inhalation even more effective, people can consider adding eucalyptus, which is an essential oil. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy suggest adding 3 to 7 drops of eucalyptus oil to boiling water and inhaling the steam through the nose.
People should close the eyes to avoid irritation.
4. Blowing the nose correctly
Blowing the nose may seem like a no-brainer. But it's important to blow the nose correctly in order to clear the nasal passages as much as possible. Sniffing mucus back up can force it into the ears and lead to an earache.
To blow the nose correctly, people should block one nostril and gently blow into a tissue, then switch and block the opposite nostril and blow.
Additional home remedies for children
All the home remedies that may work for an adult can also be used with a child. Children may also benefit from a few additional home remedies, including the following:
A humidifier may help to decrease cold symptoms.
5. Using a humidifier
A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer can decrease cold symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough, and congestion. Caregivers can place a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier in the child's room to add moisture to the home.
People should be sure to change the water daily. Also, cleaning the unit as instructed by the manufacturer prevents the buildup of mildew and mold.
6. Saline drops
Saline drops can help promote mucus drainage and clear the nasal cavity. While kids may not tolerate using a Neti pot to flush out the sinuses, they may be accepting of a few drops of saline in each nostril.
In very young children who have trouble blowing their nose, it may also be helpful to use a rubber bulb suction to remove mucus after using saline drops.
Children are more likely than an adult to develop a fever when they have a cold. Although a fever is usually not harmful, it can make a child feel miserable.
To treat a fever and sore throat, caregivers can consider over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. In children over the age of 6 months, ibuprofen can also be used.
Cold medicines containing a decongestant may be appropriate for children over the age of 6, but should not be given to younger kids. As always, it's best to talk to a healthcare provider regarding medications for children.
People should not give aspirin to children due to the possibility of a child developing Reye's syndrome. Although rare, Reye's syndrome is a serious illness that can be life-threatening. Research indicates that aspirin may trigger the development of the illness in some children.
8. Honey preparations
A research study published in Pediatrics suggested that giving honey to children before bedtime helped decrease nighttime coughs.
Honey should not be given to babies under the age of 1, however, because it contains botulinum spores. If the spores grow in a baby's immature digestive tract, they can make a baby sick.
How long do colds last?
Home remedies won't necessarily speed up a person's recovery, but they may help someone feel better until the virus has run its course. The CDC state that most people tend to experience cold symptoms for 7 to 10 days. Certain symptoms, such as a cough, may linger a little longer.
Complications of a cold can include an ear or sinus infection. If symptoms persist for longer than 2 weeks or become severe, it may be a good idea for the individual to see a doctor.
Preventing a cold
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to a cold. Although it is not always possible to prevent a cold, certain precautions may help.
Below are a few ways to decrease the chances of developing the sniffles.
Frequent hand-washing may be one of the best ways to avoid getting a cold.
Viruses can live on the hands, which is why regular hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting and spreading a cold.
When washing their hands, people should use soap and water and rub their hands together for about 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers containing alcohol are an option if soap and water are not available.
Keeping the immune system strong
It's almost impossible to avoid all germs. By keeping the immune system strong and working well, a person will increase their chances of fighting off the germs they encounter.
Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and eating a well-balanced diet are important ways of boosting the immune system. Avoiding smoking and keeping stress levels down can also keep the immune system strong.
Not sharing germs
When someone does have a cold, it's important that they take a few precautions to avoid spreading the infection. These steps include:
- staying home from work or school to avoid exposing other people to the virus
- moving away from other people when sneezing
- coughing or sneezing into a tissue
- throwing away any used tissues so others can't handle them
People who have a compromised immune system, such as those on certain medications, should pay special attention to cold prevention methods. Someone with a lower immune system may be more likely to develop complications and may take longer to recover from a cold.