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So you ignored that tingling in your throat and are now facing the full wrath of a common cold? Unfortunately, once you get a cold, you have to let it run its course. There is no definitive cure for this viral infection.

Common cold usually goes away on its own within a week or so, but throughout that week or 10 days, it gives you constant headaches and body pain. Not to mention the lingering threat of fever and congestion, especially in winters or seasonal changes, which makes it impossible to carry out daily tasks.

Naturally, most of us try to ward off this condition or get rid of it as quickly as possible. But with all those over-the-counter medicines, treatment of common cold becomes a bit confusing. Why use a pill when it can’t be cured completely?

And then comes the list of common remedies and suggestions from almost everybody you know. But the question remains: which of these work? Or maybe you want to know how they work?

This article will answer all your questions regarding common cold remedies and which remedy works the best for relieving the runny nose and congested feeling that come with a cold.

  1. Common cold prevention
  2. Common cold home remedies
  3. Other remedies for common cold

The common cold is a contagious disease. It can easily spread through contact with an infected person. Interestingly, an infected person can spread the infection two to three days before showing any symptoms themselves. So, if you just came in contact with someone who has a cold or if you yourself are feeling the first signs of a cold, it is important to isolate yourself as much as possible. This becomes even more urgent if you have children around you.

Following are some easy instructions that you should practice in order to prevent common cold:

  • If you are not infected yet:
  • If already infected:
    • Cover your mouth and nose while coughing
    • Wash your hands before cooking food or preparing meals
    • Use clean tissue or napkin. Throw used tissues in a covered dustbin
    • Do not let a healthy person touch a used napkin
    • Stay at home. Avoid going to school or work so that others don’t catch the virus from you.

Read more: Common cold in babies

There are several herbs and spices that can help to reduce the symptoms of your cold. Most of these are easily available in kitchens or can be bought from a local supermarket. Additionally, some foods and liquids can also help you get rid of a cold. Let us explore what these remedies are and how they can be used to relieve a cold:

  1. Peppermint for relieving cold
  2. Eucalyptus essential oil to get relief from cold
  3. Raw honey for relieving common cold symptoms
  4. Garlic for cold relief
  5. Zinc relieves cold
  6. Wine to get rid of cold
  7. Turmeric and tulsi for common cold

Peppermint for relieving cold

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is an aromatic herb that contains menthol.

Menthol has potent antiviral properties which help to suppress the infection. It also increases blood flow and clears the sinuses, providing relief from headache.

Local application of peppermint oil can be a really good option for reducing the discomfort of a common cold.

Alternatively, you can add a few drops of peppermint oil in your humidifier. This will give a more long-lasting effect.

If you are a tea lover, then do go for peppermint tea along with the application of peppermint oil. The menthol present in these fragrant leaves has a soothing effect on the throat and relieves itchiness and inflammation associated with a sore throat.

What you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon peppermint tea
  • Infuser
  • 1 cup warm water

How to do it:

  • Place the tea leaves in the infuser.
  • Dip it in warm water for three to four minutes.
  • You can also add a little bit of sugar for taste, but try to avoid it.

Eucalyptus essential oil to get relief from cold

Eucalyptus extracts are considered a promising remedy for the common cold. A major component of eucalyptus is 1,8-cineol. This compound has antimicrobial properties and hence is used to cure many microbial infections, including the common cold. It is also an immuno-stimulant, which helps activate our immune system. Apart from this, eucalyptus has anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling) and spasmolytic effects (relieves pain during muscle spasms) as well.

What you will need:

  • 4-5 drops eucalyptus oil
  • A handkerchief

How to do it:

  • Put the eucalyptus oil on the handkerchief and fold it.
  • Keep the handkerchief close to your nose for relief from nasal congestion.

Alternatively, you could add a few drops of this oil in your vaporizer or humidifier to help open the airways.

Raw honey for relieving common cold symptoms

Honey is one of the products that has been used by humans since ancient times. It doesn't just have nutritional benefits, but it is also used for medical purposes. Honey is an excellent antimicrobial agent and when it comes to the treatment of common cold and throat infections, it is considered very effective. Honey is said to reduce mucus secretion and soothe a sore throat. It has been found in studies that coughing frequency and severity improves after consuming honey. For quick relief from the common cold, it is recommended to take a spoonful of honey just before going to bed.

Garlic for cold relief

Garlic (Allium sativum) plays a significant role in both the prevention as well as treatment of common cold. It has a warming effect on the body, which helps get rid of the accumulated mucus.

It has been found in many trials and studies that the consumption of garlic regularly can help you avoid getting a cold.

Additionally, garlic is loaded with antimicrobial compounds that suppress and prevent the growth of infectious microbes in your airways. The fact that garlic is easily available in every kitchen makes it an extremely cost-friendly solution as well. If you have the common cold, eat two or three cloves of raw garlic or generously add garlic in your meals.

Some studies have shown that people who consume garlic regularly don't catch a cold easily. However, more research needs to be done on the usefulness of garlic—whether raw, cooked, powdered or in supplement form—to prevent and treat common cold.

Zinc relieves cold

Zinc is one of the most well-known remedies for the common cold. According to the Cochrane database of systemic reviews, zinc helps in reducing the number of infection days or days of illness. However, it doesn't have any direct effect on reducing the symptoms of a cold.

Zinc also reduces the chances of catching a cold, especially in children.

Our body is not able to store zinc, so it is advised to take it extraneously in regular diet. Some zinc-rich foods are meat (highest amount of zinc), cereals, milk and milk products.

Wine to get rid of cold

Alcohol has been used as medicine for quite a long time. The treatment of cold is one of the most common applications of alcohol. Studies suggest that wine has positive effects on reducing incidences of common cold. Interestingly, other alcoholic products like beer and vodka didn't show any such effects.

Consumption of a very little amount of wine, especially red wine, is considered to be helpful in common cold. Don't consume too much of wine as it can have its own adverse effects. Importantly, avoid giving children any dose of wine.

Also advisable is not to consume wine with any other medicines as it can lead to severe side effects.

More research needs to go into the usefulness of wine to fight or treat the common cold.

Turmeric and tulsi for common cold

Curcumin, the pigment which gives turmeric its yellow colour, is a known antiviral agent. It boosts the body's immunity to fight infections. And tulsi or holy basil reduces throat irritation.

According to a study done at the Rufaida College of Nursing, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, in 2019, taking steam with water that has been infused with turmeric and tulsi leaves is more beneficial for a common cold than just taking steam.

What you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder or raw turmeric, grated
  • 5-6 tulsi leaves
  • A big pot of water
  • Steamer

How to do it:

  • Place the pot over a burner. Add the turmeric to it.
  • Crush the tulsi leaves a little bit between your fingers and add to the water.
  • Let the water come to a boil.
  • Carefully pour the hot water into a steamer and hold it close to your nose for 10 minutes or until the water becomes cold.
  • If you do not have a steamer, carefully place the pot in a secure position and bend over it.
  • You should do this twice a day for three days for optimum results, according to the study.

The common cold is a communicable disease. As such, it is really hard to avoid it—even if you are very careful and take all the necessary measures. But that doesn’t mean you need to go through the worst of this condition. Here are some tips that will help you to get rid of cold as soon as possible:

  1. Stay hydrated: drink fluids for common cold
  2. Nasal irrigation using sendha namak in neti pot
  3. Humidifier to treat common cold
  4. Blow your nose
  5. Stay warm to deal with common cold
  6. Hot shower for common cold
  7. Hot packs for common cold relief

Stay hydrated: drink fluids for common cold

Water makes up about 60% of the adult body weight. It is an important part of your blood, tissue fluids and helps keep your metabolism going. No wonder staying hydrated solves so many of your problems. Taking enough water will help clear out toxins and infections from your body and keep you healthier in the worst of the seasons.

So, if you are under the weather, take lots of fluids, especially hot drinks like soup, hot milk, warm water or any other hot drink you like. Hot drinks also ease your nasal airflow and are one of the oldest remedies for a cold.

In a study, it was found that taking enough fluids during a bout of common cold helps in relieving a runny nose, sneezes, and cough and taking hot drinks further helped in providing respite from a sore throat, and chills and tiredness. So, it is best to keep a balance between the two to ensure effective recovery.

(Read more: How many glasses of water to drink in a day)

Nasal irrigation using sendha namak in neti pot

Neti pot is a small container with a long spout which is used to rinse out your nose and clear off the excess mucus and debris. It is a very useful technique in case of a common cold.

Using neti pots basically involves three steps:

  • Preparation of the solution: Use a pre-packed salt and prepare lukewarm saltwater. Fill the neti pot with 100 mL of this solution for use.
  • Position: Lean over a sink. Tilt your head to a side and insert the spout into your upper nostril.
  • Irrigation: Raise the pot so that the solution enters your upper nostril. The solution will come out through the lower nostril, rinsing the whole nasal canal. You can breathe through your mouth or hold your breath during this process.

When the pot is empty, remove the spout and exhale with both your nostrils to clear the leftover solution.

Repeat the process with the other nostril.

Make sure you sterilize the neti pot before and after use. Also, use clean water and salt to avoid any other infection.

Humidifier to treat common cold

Low humidity can make your nasal canal dry and cause irritation. This could be really troublesome if you are suffering from dry cold. A humidifier is a device that supplies moisture to the air surrounding you thus helping in getting relief from the symptoms of dry cold. It also helps in breaking and dislodging the mucus and getting rid of it through coughing. But there are some precautions one should take while using it.

  • ​Place the humidifier at a distance of approximately two meters from your bed or desk
  • Don't use the humidifier for long. Exposure to excessive humidity for too long can lead to the growth of moulds
  • Clean the humidifier daily to avoid infection. Also, change its water regularly
  • Try using distilled water to avoid the accumulation of minerals in the device. If these mineral particles are released in the air, they can cause breathing problems

Blow your nose

Blowing your nose or exhaling with pressure helps to remove nasal mucus. In case of a cold, it is better that you blow and remove the mucus rather than inhaling it back in. It will help in cleaning your nasal passage so you can breathe more easily.
​However, it is best to avoid blowing with too much pressure. This can affect your other organs like ears. Blow gently, alternately closing one nostril at a time. Also, use a tissue or napkin while blowing, to avoid contaminating the air and other objects around you with the virus.

Stay warm to deal with common cold

Maintaining body warmth is probably the first thing that comes to mind when talking about common cold remedies and prevention. A warm body will help you to relax and help you to get well soon. It also prevents muscle stiffness and body pain and prevents congestion. Staying away from cold helps your body spend minimal energy on maintaining the homeostatic temperature so it can fight and clear out the infection quickly. 

Try being inside your home in case of a common cold and absolutely avoid using air conditioners. If it is cold outside or if you are feeling chilly, just put on an additional blanket. Taking warm liquids such as tea and soups also helps maintain warmth in the body and helps clear airways by promoting liquefaction of mucous and its easier expulsion from your body. 

Hot shower for common cold

Taking a hot shower not just makes you feel fresh but also makes your body warm. The steam due to hot shower helps in clearing up your nasal canal by liquifying the accumulated mucus and easing its expulsion. It also washes off some of the germs and eases stiff muscles, that is usually the cause of the body pain associated with a common cold. Furthermore, the warmth of water and steam dilates your blood vessels, which relieves headaches and stress, so that you can rest with ease. The increased blood circulation also makes it easier for your immune system cells to circulate throughout the body and fight infection throughout.

A word of caution: don’t spend too long in the bath and avoid heating the water too much. Also, dry and wrap yourself up properly before coming out in the open air. The latter will prevent a sudden change in temperature and worsening of cold.

Hot packs for common cold relief

Hot packs are the best way to get rid of nasal congestion associated with a common cold. They are easily available in the market in varying sizes as per your convenience. Alternatively, you can make one at home with an oven heated cloth or a microwaved sock filled with uncooked rice or oatmeal. The main objective of the hot pack is to warm up a specific area of the body. You need to activate the hot pack and grab it close to the congested area. This will loosen up the mucus and help relieve muscle stiffness, thus providing temporary relief from cold.

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References

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  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Heath, US [Internet]. Flu and colds: in depth.
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