Flu season is strategically overshadowed by the fact that wintertime is deemed the most wonderful time of the year. Think about it: How often do you see a Hallmark character drowning under a pile of Kleenex? Christmastime can be the best of times, but it can also be the worst of times, if you’re not careful. As someone who worked with children for years, I became skilled at predicting colds before they even had the chance to start. Coming up with a few remedial tricks and clever things to do at the first sign of a cold became part of the job, so when wintertime comes back around each year, I'm almost always able now to put a stop to the suffering before sniffles spiral into feverish symptoms.
While I do have some specific tricks to share with you, I recommend above all to listen to your body when you're sick. I can guarantee it will let you know when it's feeling out of sorts and what it really needs. Trust me, the worst thing you can do when your intuition is telling you something's not right is to ignore it.
So, whether your strategy is to hone in on home remedies, or make a pit stop to browse your local pharmacy's offerings on your way home from class or work, taking the necessary steps to cure a cold before symptoms even have the chance to get dramatic is always a good idea. Here are a few tricks I've picked up over the years that will combat a nasty cold the second your nose starts to run.
1Drink A Ton Of Liquids
It really doesn't matter what you've come down with; most trips to the doctor end with your physician advising you to drink plenty of fluids when you're feeling under the weather. Jennifer Haythe, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, told SELF that this is because, when you're sick, your energy levels tend to drop, and a loss of appetite means you probably aren't drinking much, either.
Personally, when I come down with a cold, I always have a mug of tea in my hands (Lipton's Stress Less brew is my current fave because the combination of cinnamon, chamomile, and lavender really helps your body relax), but any fluids like water and vegetable broth will do the job, too.
2Remember That Meds Are Miracle Workers
I typically try my best to avoid using medication if I can help it, but in some cases, pills really do work faster than holistic remedies, especially during the holiday season, because this is that hellishly busy time of year when no one can really afford to come down sick for a few days, or even a couple weeks.
This combo pack has been a saving grace as I currently ward off a heinous cold. Once my nose felt stuffy around bedtime, I popped a NyQuil and let the drowsy feels lull me to sleep. DayQuil doesn't make me feel sleepy during the day (#blessed), so while it fights off any other ugly symptoms like sore throats and headaches, I can at least function properly.
3Go To Bed Early
I know myself, and over the years, I've recognized a few tell-tale hints that I'm getting sick. For example, I almost always have a strange, random bout of energy right before a fever sets in. I'll go on a rampage cleaning the apartment, or cooking everything in my kitchen, until the exhaustion crash hits me and all I want to do is sleep.
Of course, not everyone goes on a cleaning spree before their symptoms start to show, but being super sleepy could definitely a red flag that you might be catching something.
Sleep is vital to your mental and physical health in general, but especially when your body is trying to fight off a cold. According to a January 2017 study performed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, our sleepiness when we're sick could link back to a release of chemicals affecting the nervous system. So, rather than fighting the snooze, it might be worth taking a day or so to lay in bed and catch up on some Zs.
4Take Hot Showers/Baths
Any time I felt achy or congested growing up, my mother would quickly advise I take a long, hot shower or bath, and to this day, it's the first thing I do to beat a cold quickly.
Even if you don't want to go through the motions of washing your body (although, what better time to self-pamper than when your body is desperate for a little TLC?), making your own at-home sauna by running a hot shower and breathing in the steam is enough to open the nasal passages and relax your muscles.
5Use Essential Oils To Fight Off Common Symptoms
Essential oils are super trendy right now, and for good reason. Aromatherapy is bae, especially when your nasal passages feel as congested as the inside of your dorm room closet looks. Ergo, when in doubt, steam 'em out.
According to UpNature, Frankincense is a gem for curing colds because of its "antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant properties." One way to utilize this essential oil's medicinal benefits is by dripping several drops into a bowl of steaming hot water, veiling a towel over your head, and leaning over the bowl to inhale the steam to loosen up the mucus in your nose and lungs.
6Keep Cough Drops Handy
I would argue that the worst part of a cold is the uncontrollable cough that tags along with congestion. I would also argue that one of the small perks of a cold is getting to suck on a few of these delicious cough drops.
Granted, if you've ever tried a Luden's cough drop, you know it tastes like straight up candy. But these treats, along with other throat-soothing remedies like Halls, do contain medicinal ingredients to help lubricate irritated throat tissue that comes on as a result of hard coughing.
If you're less interested in the medicinal aspect and more into the candy, Quinn Candy's Sniffle Slayer lollipops are spiked with lemon, ginger, honey, and cayenne to wet your throat and stimulate your senses to combat a stuffy nose.
7Gargle Salt Water For Sore Throats
I know gargling with salt water can feel like the equivalent of throwing salt in an open wound (after all, that sort of really is what you're doing), but the Mayo Clinic says this two-ingredient tonic is literal bae when you need relief.
Mix about one-quarter to a half of a teaspoon of salt with an eight-ounce glass of warm water, and gargle as needed to reduce throat swelling and loosen any backed-up mucus. Yes, it will probably feel awful, but trust me, it's worth the discomfort.