We all know the dreaded feeling of the tickling throat, foggy brain and nasal congestion that signal worse things to come. Yes, cold season has begun and it always seems to hit when you're busy and can't afford to take a day off.
Dr. Ruth Sorotzkin, internist and family medicine physician at Saint John's Health Centre in Santa Monica, Calif. says while there's no cure for the common cold, that doesn't mean you should pull up the covers and give up.
Follow these five steps and slow down your cold at the first signs:
1. Stay hydrated.
Hydration prevents mucus from becoming too thick and difficult to clear and is important to the body's overall ability to function. A cold accompanied by a fever will cause further dehydration, reducing your body's ability to fight illness. At the first signs of a cold, Sorotzkin advises avoiding caffeinated beverages that cause dehydration and replacing them with an electrolyte drinks such as Hydralite or Nuun. Electrolytes regulate our body's hydration, nerve and muscle function and rebuild damaged tissue. They also help the body hold onto fluids better. "If you're sweating from a fever, you're losing electrolytes through your skin [which need to be replenished]," says Sorotzkin.
2. Keep nasal passages clear.
Sinus congestion is the number one annoyance of the common cold. A saline solution or Neti Pot (an ancient remedy from India in which a container with a spout at one end allows the user to pour salt water solution through one nostril and let it run out the other) can help you breathe better by breaking up mucous and keeping sinus passages clear.
The Neti Pot can be particularly helpful for individuals with a history of sinus infection as it helps wash away debris. Sorotzkin says mist from a steamy shower of a vaporizer can provide a similar benefit by keeping nasal passages moisturized.
Gargling with salt water to clear a sore throat may sound like an old wives tale, but Sorotzkin says it's partially right. "Gargling in general is a good thing," says Sorotzkin, but adds it doesn't matter what you gargle with. "I'm not sure that doing it with salt water or baking soda or Listerine are actually any better but just the process of gargling," she says. "[It] clears any bacteria that may have settled onto the back of your throat or the tonsils."
4. Drink warm fluids.
Drinking warm liquids not only feels soothing, it increases blood flow and improves your body's natural defense system so you're better able to fight off a respiratory illness.
Sorotzkin recommends scaling back on activities to allow your body to tap into all of its resources to fight off viruses. If you exercise regularly, Sorotzkin says you don't have to quit cold turkey at the first sign of a scratchy throat, but she recommends reducing the intensity or duration of the workout. While a sore throat, nasal congestion or any other symptoms above the neck don't preclude exercise, if you experience any symptoms below the neck such as shortness of breath, Sorotzkin says it's best to take a break from your workout routine until your body has had a chance to recover.
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