It is not necessary to detox from a cold. Colds occur due to viruses, which the body destroys via the immune system. That said, a warm bath may help ease some of the symptoms of a cold.

Baths may help to reduce muscle aches and chills, while the steam could potentially reduce a stuffy nose. But a detox bath will not cure a cold.

There is no specific treatment that cures cold viruses. Most people will get better on their own in 7–10 days.

Read on to learn more about a detox bath for colds, how a bath might help, and what else can reduce the symptoms.

A woman taking a detox bath for a cold in a white bathroom next to a plant.Share on Pinterest
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There is no scientific evidence that detox baths help to treat any medical condition, including colds.

The concept of detox baths comes from the idea that the body needs additional help removing toxins. The idea is that baths cause sweating and that this removes toxins from the bloodstream. Some people add other ingredients to the bath, such as essential oils, to induce other health benefits.

While it is true that sweating is one way the body gets rid of certain toxins, colds occur due to viral infections. A person cannot “sweat out” these viruses. Instead, the immune system kills the virus, and it is this immune response that causes cold symptoms.

Additionally, detoxification is something the body does on its own via the skin, lymphatic system, liver, and digestive system. Unless a person has a medical condition that prevents the body from detoxing by itself, or they have a severe condition such as heavy metal poisoning, they do not need additional help with this.

As a result, encouraging detoxification will not prevent or cure a cold. But bathing may help to alleviate symptoms, such as muscle aches, while a person recovers. Some people also find them soothing or relaxing.

Many people find bathing soothing when they have a cold. As long as they can safely take a bath, it is OK to do so at any point during the illness.

It may not be safe for a person to take a bath if they:

  • feel dizzy
  • feel very sleepy
  • have weak muscles or cannot sit upright without help
  • have a high risk of falls
  • are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including certain cold medications

There is no evidence that any specific ingredients in a bath will cure or shorten a cold, nor that it will aid in detoxification. However, some people find that certain bath additives help to reduce certain cold symptoms.

Essential oils

Certain essential oils can reduce a blocked or stuffy nose. For example, a 2022 review notes that previous research has found that eucalyptus oil is an effective decongestant. One of its main compounds, eucalyptol, is an active ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) cold products, such as Vicks VapoRub.

Menthol is another decongestant compound that occurs in certain essential oils, such as peppermint. People can add these in small amounts to a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, before adding them to a bath.

Essential oils can be very strong and can irritate the skin in some people. It is important to patch test them before using them. Never add undiluted essential oils to a bath without mixing them into a carrier oil first.

Essential oils are not safe for everyone. Anyone with a pre-existing condition, who is pregnant, or who takes medication should check with a doctor before using them. Do not use essential oils in baths for children or pets, as they can be toxic.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Epsom salts

Epsom salts, or magnesium sulfate, has a reputation for easing muscle aches and pains. Anecdotally, many report feeling a benefit when they add it to baths.

However, a 2017 review suggests that Epsom salts may not absorb well into the skin, so it is unclear how much they help.

Other ingredients

Some people recommend adding a variety of other ingredients to detox baths, such as:

There is no evidence that bathing in water that contains these substances has any impact on viruses inside the body.

As detox baths are not a medical treatment, people can choose a temperature and duration that feels comfortable for them.

Do not make the bath too hot in an effort to induce sweating. This could make a person feel dizzy or faint, and it will not have any effect on their cold.

Similarly, people with colds do not need cold baths. It is a myth that people with viral infections need to cool down if they have a fever.

Fevers are part of the body’s natural response to an infection and cannot cause brain damage unless body temperature reaches over 107.6°F (42°C). However, fever can indicate a person has another illness, such as a bacterial infection, which may require treatment.

Detox baths are not necessary for children. Some elements of a detox bath could also be dangerous for them. For example:

  • Hot water could cause overheating or burns.
  • Essential oils can irritate the skin.
  • Some detox bath ingredients can be toxic if a child swallows them.

Instead, caregivers can use baths to keep children comfortable and clean while they have a cold. To do this:

  • Make sure the temperature of the water is warm but not hot and that it does not exceed 120°F (48.8°C), to prevent burns.
  • Use plain water with no additional ingredients unless a doctor has recommended it.
  • Wash the skin gently with a mild cleanser.
  • Pat them dry with a towel.

Never leave the child unattended in the bath, even for a minute, as this carries a risk of drowning.

Some other strategies to help with a cold include:

  • resting
  • drinking enough fluids
  • taking OTC pain medications to ease fever or headaches
  • using nasal decongestants to unblock the nose

Do not use decongestants in children under 2 years old, and only give them to older children after consulting a doctor.

If the symptoms of a cold do not go away after 7 days, or they are severe, speak with a doctor.

Detox baths do not remove cold viruses from inside the body. There is no evidence that they shorten or cure the common cold or help with detoxification.

However, taking a warm bath during a cold could help to ease some of the symptoms, such as muscle aches. There are also some additional ingredients that could help with congestion, such as certain essential oils. However, these ingredients are not safe for everyone.

Resting, drinking enough fluids, and trying OTC cold remedies can also help a person feel better until the cold goes away.