The common cold is an illness caused by a viral infection that affects people of all ages, inducing frequent use of OTC and prescription medications and alternative treatments. It could be caused by various respiratory viruses, most commonly a rhinovirus. Children can have up to 12 episodes of cold per year, while adults get it 2-4 times a year.
A common misconception is that cold weather can cause the common cold. The cold weather itself isn’t the cause, but rather the fact that during cold weather months, people spend more time indoors near each other, encouraging the spread of the virus. Person-to-person transmission usually happens when an individual who has a cold blows or touches their nose and then touches someone or something else.
Treatment mostly focuses on relieving symptoms and allowing one’s immune system to take care of it, as there are no effective antivirals for the common cold and few effective measures to prevent it.
How to Recognize a Cold
Symptoms often last for one to two weeks. Even though it could be contagious until the symptoms have completely subsided, it’s most contagious during the first two or three days of the illness. The same symptoms occur in adults and in children, but they are sometimes more persistent in children. Some of the most frequent ones are:
- Stuffed or runny nose
- Low-grade fever
- Sore throat
- Pressure in the ears
- Overall feeling of fatigue
- Loss of taste and smell
- Loss of appetite
It is important to spot the difference between the flu and the common cold. The flu and common cold are caused by different viruses, even though they are both respiratory illnesses. Because these two have similar symptoms, it is difficult to tell a difference between them based on symptoms alone. Generally, having the flu is worse than a cold, the symptoms are more intense and can lead to serious health complications if not treated appropriately. Some of the complications that could result from the flu include pneumonia, bacterial infections and bronchitis.
There are a few basic prevention methods if you want to effectively avoid a cold:
1. Wash Your Hands
This one is pretty self-explanatory and can seem obvious, but not everyone does it correctly. Be thorough, use paper towels and don’t touch the doorknob on your way out of the bathroom (they are infested with germs and bacteria).
2. Stay at Home When You’re Feeling Sick
This helps prevent spreading the infection to other people. If you can’t get time off work, try to stay away from others, sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands often.
3. Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces and Objects
Use a product that’s effective against flu and cold viruses.
4. Do Not Share Handkerchiefs or Tissues
Or any other personal belongings that go near or inside your nose, eyes or mouth.
How to Get Rid of a Cold Fast at Home
The most commonly used treatments include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants and cough suppressants. These treatments can be used alone or in combination. But there are also a number of other actions you can take to relieve those annoying symptoms.
1. Stay Hydrated and Drink Warm Liquids
Drinking water, warm tea, juice, clear broth or chicken soup and warm lemonade with honey can prevent dehydration and ease congestion.
2. Gargle Salt Water
Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and gargle. You can do this a few times a day, which helps to temporarily relieve sore or scratchy throat.
3. Battle Stuffiness and Blow Your Nose Regularly
Over-the-counter nasal sprays can help relieve congestion and stuffiness. Salt water rinsing will help with breaking nasal congestion, while also removing bacteria from your nose. Blowing your nose is much better than inhaling the mucus back up. The best way to do it is while you blow gently to clear your nostril press a finger over the other nostril.
4. Rest and Sleep
This helps your body direct all its energy into healing itself.
5. Try Steam Inhalation
Steam inhalation or steam therapy involves inhalation of water vapor. The moist, warm air is thought to work by loosening the mucus in the nose, throat, and lungs. It can also help to subside headaches. Steamy showers are a variation of this method.
6. Over-The-Counter Cold or Cough Medicines
Decongestants, antihistamines and pain relief medications should provide some symptom relief. Intranasal decongestants shouldn’t be used for more than 4 days or given to young children. Take cold medicines with caution and as instructed, because the overuse and misuse of these medications can cause other issues.
7. Vitamin C, Zinc And Echinacea
There are mixed opinions on whether these can help with colds, but some studies show that they can help shorten the duration of the cold and the severity of symptoms. Check with your doctor first before taking any additional supplements.
What Doesn’t Work with a Cold
There are many ineffective treatments and remedies, but the most common mistake people make is using antibiotics. Antibiotics attack and fight bacteria, but do nothing against cold viruses. Avoid using old antibiotics, since the inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
When to Go See Your Doctor
You should consult your GP if:
- The symptoms last for over 3 weeks
- Your temperature is very high
- The symptoms suddenly worsen
- You have a weakened immune system or a long-term medical condition
- You start experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing
There are many options when it comes to how to get rid of a cold fast, even though there aren’t any instant remedies to help cure it in a day or two. Trying some or all of these suggestions might help speed up the process of getting better, while also strengthening your immune system. The most important thing is to take care of yourself which will let your body heal naturally.