Sweating out a cold involves inducing sweat to shorten the duration or relieve symptoms relating to the illness. However, very limited evidence suggests the strategy works.

Over 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, but the most common is the rhinovirus. Adults often have about two to three colds per year. Though symptoms tend to peak within 2–3 days, a person may feel the effects for about 10–14 days.

There is currently no cure for a cold. Over-the-counter medications are available to help with symptoms. Many people may consider home remedies, such as sweating it out, to help find relief and shorten the duration of their cold. However, no evidence suggests sweating is effective, and if a person is not adequately hydrated, it may make them feel worse.

This article reviews the effectiveness of sweating out a cold as well as other questions about steam, saunas, and exercising with a cold.

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People looking to sweat out a cold to shorten its duration will not find it effective. Some may find that sweating relieves symptoms temporarily, but no evidence confirms that sweating out a cold works.

Methods people use to sweat out a cold can include:

  • exercise
  • breathing in steam
  • saunas or steam rooms

Though a person can exercise with a cold, most experts suggest limiting activities, listening to their body, and taking necessary rest. They also recommend avoiding exercise if a fever or other more severe symptoms are present.

A person may feel temporary relief from some symptoms while exercising. Steam from saunas, bowls, showers, steam rooms, and other sources may help ease nasal pressure and pain temporarily. However, these methods are unlikely to speed up recovery from a cold.

There is no evidence that sweating can treat congestion.

The myth that sweating out a cold will work likely comes from related evidence that suggests long-term exercise can boost a person’s immune system. Other evidence suggests that exercise may help prevent respiratory infections, reduce symptom severity, and shorten the infection’s duration.

In other words, exercising may help make someone feel better and help support the immune system. This may help reduce the severity of respiratory infections, such as a cold.

However, starting exercise when sick will likely not do much for someone other than temporarily ease symptoms. For the full effects of exercise and sweating, a person will need long-term, moderate exercise.

Hot steam may help with relieving sinus pain and inflammation. This may assist in easing cold symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion.

A person can use steam from a bowl of boiled water. To do this, they can place a towel over their head and around the bowl. They can then breathe in the vapors.

Another method of steaming involves using a shower. An individual can close the bathroom door and allow the steam from a hot shower to fill the room.

Both of these methods may help with temporary symptom relief.

Saunas use either dry or wet heat. A person may find that using a wet sauna may help with cold symptoms in a similar way to how steam may ease them.

However, a 2017 study found that exposure to humid, warm air, such as in a sauna, has no effect on a cold.

Generally, experts agree that some exercise with a cold is fine as long as the person is feeling up to it. It may also be advisable for the individual to consider reducing the intensity of their workout. For example, instead of running, they may wish to walk. They may also consider reducing their weight load during strength training.

People also need to listen to their bodies. If they are tired or worn out, it may be a sign that they should not exercise at the moment and take time to rest instead.

A person needs to avoid exercise if they have certain symptoms, such as:

Sweating causes a person to lose fluids. Having adequate fluid levels can help them feel better and help the body fight the infection.

If the individual chooses to use a sauna, exercise, or otherwise induce sweating, they need to make sure to drink water, juice, or other liquids to replace the loss they sustain from sweating it out.

A person can take several steps at home to help feel better. These may not work for everyone, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a person:

  • drink a lot of water or other fluids
  • use saline or nasal drops
  • rest
  • breathe in steam
  • use a humidifier
  • use of lozenges or cough drops for adults
  • honey for sore throats in adults and children over the age of 1 year

Read on to learn more about tips to get rid of a cold quickly.

No scientific evidence supports sweating out a cold. However, a person may find some relief through light exercise or taking in steam from saunas, showers, or bowls of hot water.

To recover from a cold, a person needs to rest and drink plenty of fluids. They also need to avoid exercise if they have additional symptoms, such as fever, ear aches, or symptoms in the chest. Individuals should start to feel better within 1–2 weeks with or without interventions.