Why do you catch a cold?

You can treat a cold at home by resting and using common remedies.
You can treat a cold at home by resting and using common remedies.

There are many different respiratory viruses, bacteria and other germs that can cause common cold or nasopharyngitis. Each year, one billion people in the United States get sick with a cold.

More than 200 different viruses are known to cause common cold. Rhinoviruses are the most common reason behind viral colds. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted human life and has turned fatal for some people. Other viruses that can cause a cold include respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus and human metapneumovirus. These flu viruses, bacteria and other germs can be everywhere and anywhere in our environment. Touching doorknobs and infected surfaces, shaking hands with sick people and constantly visiting crowded places may spread the infection.

Mostly, people get colds in the winter and spring, but some may get them any time of the year. It may give you a sore throat, runny nose, headache, body aches and cough or sometimes a fever. These annoying symptoms are part of the natural healing process of the immune system. Mostly, these signs disappear within 7 to 10 days. However, if you have weak immunity, asthma or another respiratory condition, you may require help to recover.

How do you get rid of a cold overnight?

Cold symptoms are part of your body’s healing processes. Most of the time, it does not require any help. However, you can get rid of a cold faster, even overnight, with the following simple measures.

  • Stay at home: Staying at home when you are sick will restore your energy and protect others from getting infected. Do not fly unless it is extremely necessary. If you must fly, use some over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and carry a nasal spray. Take all the social distancing precautions. A few hours of bed rest can do wonders for your body.
  • Drink plenty of hot fluids: Hot drinks or a cup of hot herbal tea can make you feel better. Hot liquids may relieve your nasal congestion, prevent dehydration and soothe discomfort due to a sore throat. Try sipping herbal tea, lemon water or warm broth. Soups, especially chicken soup, may help thin mucus and relieve aches and congestion. Try to take a hot drink before going to bed if you can’t sleep at night. Add a spoonful of honey to your herbal or lemon tea to help  you sleep soundly and relieve your cough. However, avoid giving honey to a baby younger than one year old. Drinking hot fluids may loosen mucus and reduce nasal congestion. It also can help with headache and fatigue. Keep a glass or bottle handy and refill it with water.
  • Sleep: It will recharge your body. Insufficient sleep may weaken your immunity. It is one of the best medicines for a cold. Go to bed early and take naps during the day until you feel better. Place extra pillows under your head to ease sinus pressure and help you breathe more easily. Prop yourself up with pillows to help relieve a cough.
  • Gargle with warm salt water: Gargling will moisten your throat and may provide temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water a few times a day. It will soothe your sore throat and ease the throat swelling.
  • Blow your nose: Blowing your nose gently in the right way may help clear a stuffy nose. However, avoid blowing it hard.
  • Take a hot steamy shower: Moisture in the air can ease your breathing. The stream can moisten your scratchy sore throat and reduce stuffy nasal congestion. Therefore, a hot shower may provide you with much relief and relax your muscles.
  • Humidifier: A good humidifier may help add moisture to the air and soothe your dry sinuses.
  • OTC medicines: These may help to ease your symptoms, but they will not make your cold go away any faster. Moreover, you must consult your pediatrician before giving any OTC medicine to a child under the age of six years old. You can take the following OTC medicines.
    • Pain relievers: You can take acetaminophen for your fever and aches. If you are taking any cold medicine, then you must check whether it already contains the pain reliever along with cold medications. Consult your doctor if you are confused. It can be dangerous if you are getting the same ingredient in different remedies. Therefore, read the label carefully and avoid a combination of medicines.
    • Lozenges: Lozenges may soothe your throat soreness for some time. Avoid lozenges in kids younger than five years old.
    • Decongestant: Use a decongestant to relieve nasal and airway stuffiness. It shrinks nasal blood vessels and opens up your airway. However, using too much decongestant may worsen the congestion; therefore, avoid using it more than three days.
    • Antihistamines: These can dry up your runny nose. These drugs block the chemical that causes sneezing and sniffling. Cetirizine is one example. Antihistamines along with decongestants may help you more.
    • Expectorant: If you have mucus in your lungs, taking an expectorant may help loosen it. However, consult your pediatrician before giving it to your child or if you are asthmatic.
    • Mentholated salve: Use small dabs of salve containing menthol, eucalyptus and camphor to help to relieve a stuffy nose. However, apply it only on the outside and avoid putting it inside the nose.
  • Avoid antibiotics: Antibiotics may not help if you have a viral infection. It may make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you are taking them unnecessarily.

When should you see your doctor?

See your doctor if

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
  • Your symptoms are unusual and more severe.
  • Your baby who is younger than three months of age has fever and lethargy.
  • You or your baby has serious conditions or flu complications that may look like just a common cold but are not getting better.
  • You are an adult who is 65 years or older.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have a certain medical condition such as a strep throat, sinus infection, bronchitis, asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

Your doctor will evaluate you or your baby’s condition and recommend treatment accordingly.

How can you prevent yourself from getting a cold?

  • Some hygiene measures can help protect you against getting these infections such as frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance in crowds, staying away from people who are sick, covering your face while sneezing or coughing, avoiding contact with sick people and not touching your face.
  • Eating a healthy diet may improve your immunity and help you get well soon. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, zinc and antioxidants can boost your immunity.
  • Adopt a daily routine exercise, which can also boost your immunity.
  • Maintaining a good healthy weight is also beneficial for your immunity. People with excess weight may have an increased risk of infections due to low immunity.

In the future, there will be vaccines for rhinovirus, coronavirus and flu viruses. However, as of now, there is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

CDC


NIH


Mayo Clinic






Sleep.org


Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


Penn State Hershey Medical Center


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