It is not possible to get rid of a cold quickly because there is no cure for the common cold. However, some supplements may help reduce the duration of a cold by a short amount of time.
In this article, we will look at how long a cold typically lasts, how to speed recovery, and how to ease symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 200 viruses can cause a cold. The most common type are rhinoviruses. These are highly contagious viruses that spread from person to person through human contact or droplets that people expel into the air when they cough or sneeze.
Adults have an average of 2–3 colds per year. Infants and children catch more colds per year than adults. It is possible to get a cold at any time of the year, but they are most common in fall and winter.
When someone has a cold, their symptoms usually peak in 2–3 days and start to get better within 10–14 days. The American Lung Association state that colds may last longer in older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions.
The symptoms of a cold can include:
- a stuffy or runny nose
- a sore throat
- postnasal drip
- watery eyes
No medication or home remedy can cure a common cold. The illness will go away on its own without medical treatment. However, some evidence suggests that certain supplements may help speed up recovery or prevent someone from developing as many colds per year.
A 2017 report in the journal nutrients states that two controlled trials showed a link between a 6–8 gram (g) daily dose of vitamin C and shorter cold duration. However, many of the studies cited in the report are at least a decade old.
According to a 2020 review in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, people who are deficient in vitamin D may benefit from supplementation to prevent colds. However, people who get enough vitamin D already do not significantly benefit from taking this supplement.
The scientific evidence regarding zinc and colds is mixed. A 2019 randomized controlled trial concluded that there was no observable difference in the cold recovery rates of people who took zinc lozenges versus those who did not.
However, the 2020 review states that zinc supplementation could reduce colds from occurring in children under 10 years old by up to 53%.
Researchers need to carry out more research to prove the effectiveness of all these supplements.
While there is no cure for a cold, people can do things to ease their symptoms while they recover. The CDC provide the following tips for adults:
- staying hydrated
- using a clean air humidifier
- using saline nasal spray or drops
- inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water, or in the shower
- sucking throat lozenges to soothe a sore throat
- using honey to relieve a cough
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications may also help. However, the best cold relieving medicines will depend on what symptoms a person has, whether they have any underlying conditions, or take other medications.
Some people should not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), decongestants, or cough medicines.
Talk to a pharmacist or doctor before taking medications for colds, and before administering medications to children.
Antibiotics target bacteria rather than viruses, so they will not cure a cold. However, according to the American Lung Association, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics if someone develops a bacterial infection and a viral illness.
Some products on the market claim to stop or prevent cold viruses. There are very few scientific studies to back up these claims.
People should be wary of products that promise to get rid of a cold virus fast. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate supplements and herbal remedies.
The CDC state that someone should see a doctor if they have:
- difficulty breathing
- symptoms of dehydration
- a fever that lasts longer than 4 days
- symptoms that last longer than 10 days with no improvement
- symptoms that go away but then comes back or worsen
- worsened symptoms of pre-existing chronic health conditions
If a child younger than 3 months old has a fever of 100.4oF (38oC) or above, a parent or caretaker should take them to see a doctor right away.
There is no way to get rid of a cold fast. A cold will usually go away on its own without treatment. However, a person may experience uncomfortable symptoms while they recover.
People can take steps to aid recovery, such as getting plenty of rest. Some studies suggest that vitamin C and echinacea may reduce the duration of a cold. However, the evidence supporting this is mixed.
The best way to avoid a cold is to prevent the spread of viruses by staying away from people who have colds and washing the hands with soap regularly.