K S Lane is a student of pharmacology and has a deep and passionate interest in all kinds of ailments and medications.
Get Back on Your Feet
While the common cold isn’t exactly a life-threatening illness, catching one can still be a real nuisance. "I don’t have time for this! I have things to do!" There are a lot of remedies for the sniffles floating around out there in cyberspace, and unfortunately, hardly any of them actually have any scientific backing. Below I’ve listed four scientifically proven methods to help you beat that cold faster so you can get out of bed and go back to crossing items off your to-do list.
Things That Probably Won't Help You:
- Demanding antibiotics from your doctor: The common cold is caused by a viral infection, and antibiotics (also called antibacterials) are there to cure you of diseases caused by bacteria. It’s likely that your doctor will refuse to give you antibiotics unless your cold has persisted for an abnormally long period of time (for more than two weeks), and this is for a good reason. The overprescription of antibiotics has led to some diseases becoming resistant to their effects, which is very bad news for the health of the human race in general. So please don’t pester your doctor and listen to his or her advice carefully.
- Overdosing on vitamin C: It’s a popular misconception that downing a litre of orange juice is going to cure you of all your ills, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. This myth was started by a scientist named Linus Pauling, who published a book in the 1970s that promoted dosing yourself up with vitamin C to cure common illnesses. However, Pauling’s research was never peer-review or backed by the medical community. Vitamin C does do a lot of great stuff, but taking in huge amounts of it isn’t going to do any more good than consuming the normal, recommended amount, which virtually everyone does without even realising it. Pauling’s view that vitamin C can cure colds probably developed from the fact that people with deficiencies in the substance do experience a hindered ability to fight off disease. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that taking in more vitamin C is going to bolster your immune system. A good analogy is to compare taking vitamin C to eating food. If you don’t eat enough food, you’re not going to have enough energy to do the things you want to. If you eat just the right amount of food, you’re going to have a good level of energy and go about your day as normal. However, that doesn’t mean that eating more food than you need will give you some kind of super energy boost.
- Sculling cough syrup: While over-the-counter cough syrups can help to alleviate your sore throat, they’re not going to shorten the duration of your cold. This is because cough medicines target the symptoms of your cold (a sore throat) and not the root of the problem (the virus). Taking cough syrup doesn’t hurt, of course, and it can help to make you feel better, but it’s like sticking a band-aid on a bullet wound (if catching a cold can be compared to getting shot, which it really can’t). In the long run, cough medicine isn’t going to help you, and taking too much can be dangerous.
- Popping echinacea pills: Many people claim that taking echinacea, a kind of herb, helps them to get over their colds more quickly. However, there’s no actual evidence for the action of echinacea against the cold virus and, therefore, nothing to prove that the thousands of testimonials from people online aren’t just fuelled by the placebo effect. Of course, this doesn’t mean that taking echinacea is bad for you, and it could be true that in the future, a scientific basis for using it will be established. All I’m really saying is that I wouldn’t rely solely on it as some kind of miracle cure.
Things That Probably Will Help You:
- Rest, but don’t stay in bed all day: It goes without saying that rest is important for curing any sickness, including the common cold. Staying in bed also has the added bonus of ensuring that you don’t spread your cold to all of your friends and coworkers, which is going to make you a lot less popular. However, research indicates that sleeping the day away probably isn’t going to be that helpful. Getting gentle exercise is proven to reduce the duration of your cold, largely because by sweating and getting your body temperature up, you’re making your body a less inviting place for the cold virus, which can’t survive in hot temperatures. Of course, exercise within reason and cut back on the amount you’d usually push yourself. You are sick, after all.
- Take probiotics: Like everything in life, bacterias come in good sorts and bad sorts. Probiotics contain the good sort, and taking them can be highly beneficial for your health. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, taking probiotics can shave about two days off your cold and make your symptoms 34 percent less severe. You’ll need to put in some research to find the right kind of probiotics for you, but once you’ve figured it all out your cold should be cured much faster!
- Stay hydrated: It’s best to be mindful of this one. Like in the case of vitamin C, overdosing on water isn’t going to help you fight off your cold and is actually likely to hinder your recovery by putting an extra strain on your kidneys. However, I’ve still included this one in the 'to-do' list because, unlike in the case of vitamin C, there are many people who don’t drink enough water, to begin with. The bottom line is that you should drink about 3 litres of water a day (give or take a litre, depending on your size), and by making sure that you get this intake, you'll give your body the fuel it needs to beat your cold. Drinking an excessive amount of fluids, on the other hand, won’t help you, as researchers from the University of Queensland discovered.
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- Eat a spicy meal: If your cold is getting you down, try eating a spiced-up meal to shave a few extra days off your total illness time. Turmeric, a popular yellow spice, has been scientifically proven to help cure colds. This is because the spice contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory chemical that can halt a virus in its tracks, according to research from George Mason University. And while you’re at it, why not throw a few cloves of garlic into the pan as well? Garlic possesses antioxidants with antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic properties, and all of those anti-things are going to help your cold clear up nice and fast. On top of this, garlic also aids with decongestion, which will help get rid of that awful stuffy-nose feeling. On the downside, you’re going to have garlic-smelling breath, but hey, at least you’ll be able to breathe again.
Get Well Soon!
Despite what you might have heard from your mother, your friends, your co-workers and the internet at large, drinking orange juice, sculling cough syrup, taking antibiotics and popping echinacea pills probably isn’t going to help you cure your cold any faster. Instead, you should be relying on more scientifically valid methods like staying hydrated, taking probiotics, getting a balance of rest and exercise and eating turmeric and garlic. By using these techniques, you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting over your cold quickly and efficiently.
Get well soon!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 K S Lane
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on January 21, 2018:
Thanks Robin! Sadly some misinformation (eg. Vitamin C and colds) is so widespread that it probably will never be undone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Robin Goodfellow from United States on January 21, 2018:
I absolutely agree! I cannot even begin to count just how many people have thought vitamin C could cure colds, or that antibiotics could cure all colds.
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on January 08, 2018:
Barbara- I was initially going to include Zinc, however I found from a coupe of sources (most notably https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrNB74Dzn3I and https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/com... that the proof of Zinc's effectiveness is somewhat shaky. Apparently there was a review that concluded Zinc could shorten the duration of a cold by about a day if it's taken within 24 hours of the initial symptoms appearing, but the analysis didn't have enough data "to meet a high standard of proof" (MayoClinic). It's definitely possible that Zinc could be helpful in shortening the duration of colds, but I didn't include it on this list because the science behind it is still somewhat ambiguous. I've no doubt that more studies will be conducted in the future though, so I guess we'll see what happens!
Barbara Badder from USA on January 07, 2018:
I'm surprised that you didn't mention zinc.