First, you notice a little scratch in your throat. Maybe you feel a little more tired than usual. Then the fever and chills creep in. Before you know it, your voice is hoarse and you can’t stop blowing your nose. You’ve got the common cold.
We’ve all been there. And the truth is, we’re likely to experience it again at some point in our lives. The common cold is common after all. Germs are all around us, and the best way to stay healthy is to boost your immunity ahead of time and have a natural remedy game plan to get better faster when a cold gets the best of you.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options to stack your natural medicine cabinet and self-care schedule. Read on to learn the best natural remedies to reduce your symptoms, speed up your recovery, and rebuild your immunity.
In this article
Common Cold 101: What You Need to Know
The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract (your nose, sinuses, and throat). Over 200 viruses are known to cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the usual suspect. As the name suggests, the common cold happens pretty often – up to 1 billion cases are reported in the US every year. The CDC states that the average healthy adult can expect to have a cold 2-3 times per year, while children can get them even more frequently. Most colds are mild and go away on their own, but they can lead to issues like sinus infections, fatigue, or poor immunity.
How do you get a cold?
We live in a microbial world. With countless bacteria and viruses around us at any given time, it’s shocking that we aren’t sick all the time! Thankfully, our immune system usually targets and destroys pathogens before we get sick. But in some cases, we fall victim to one of these viruses. But how?
The cold virus is spread through droplets in the air, usually when someone who is infected with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. Cold viruses can also linger on surfaces for hours or even days. When we are exposed to the virus, our immune system mounts an attack on the pathogen within the body. If the virus is not immediately destroyed, we get sick and start experiencing full-blown cold symptoms within 1-3 days.
Common Symptoms of the Common Cold
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Slight body aches
- Mild headache
- Skin sensitivity
- Low-grade fever
- General malaise
Is it a Common Cold or Something Else?
Colds are so common that most people can instantly recognize them when the sniffles start. But many cold symptoms are also symptoms of other illnesses, like the flu or sinus infections. Here’s how to tell the difference:
While the common cold is caused by a virus, allergies are caused by your immune system’s response to a harmless allergen, like dust or pollen. Unlike a cold, allergies rarely present with symptoms like fever, sore throat, or aches and pains. Allergies can also last much longer than a few days (sometimes weeks or months).
The flu is caused by the influenza virus – a different type of virus than those that cause colds. While symptoms are similar, the flu tends to come on more quickly, have more severe symptoms, and linger longer than the common cold. It also causes a higher fever with temperatures over 101° F.
Covid-19 and the common cold have similar symptoms and are both caused by viruses – SARS-CoV-2 causes Covid, while rhinoviruses usually cause colds. Sneezing is usually a sign that you’re facing a cold, while symptoms like extreme fatigue, fever, diarrhea, and loss of smell and taste could point to Covid. If you experience any of the signs of Covid-19, take the necessary precautions to help prevent spreading it to those around you.
A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold. But the sore throat caused by cold viruses is much less severe than the bacterial infection of strep throat (streptococcus). Strep throat often comes with a high fever, swollen tonsils, and tiny red patches in the throat. It can be treated within 3-5 days with antibiotics.
Cold symptoms and sinus infection symptoms often overlap. In fact, a cold can trigger a sinus infection, but not all sinus infections are caused by a virus. Bacterial infections and allergies can also lead to a sinus infection. You may be dealing with a sinus infection if you have been sick for longer than 10 days, you have persistent facial pain or tenderness around your eyes and nose, and have yellow or green mucus.
How to Cure the Common Cold?
Wait it out. There is no medical cure for the common cold. While there are countless over-the-counter medicines that manage the symptoms of the common cold, they don’t actually “cure” it. So how do you recover from a cold? Time and your body’s natural healing response. Most people recover from the common cold within a week to ten days. But, depending on the strength of your immune system, this could be shorter or longer. Through natural remedies and wellness practices, you can reduce the intensity of your symptoms and expedite your recovery process.
Natural Remedies for the Common Cold
Vitamin C has long been touted as a cold remedy – but does the science back it up? While there is conflicting evidence over whether taking vitamin C will prevent colds, research does support the fact that taking vitamin C while you are sick will reduce the length of your cold. Experts recommend 6-8g of vitamin C per day for adults (1-2g for children) for a quicker recovery. Or, try sipping on hot water with lemon and honey.
Studies show that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to catch colds, and may take longer to recover. Similarly, other studies show that supplementing with vitamin D during an active cold could help reduce symptoms and speed recovery. Vitamin D helps you fight colds by promoting an anti-viral response, moderating the immune system, and reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to get enough vitamin D during the darker days of the cold and flu season. Increase your vitamin D intake by spending time outside when possible, eating foods rich in vitamin D, and supplementing with Aceva’s Active-D Plus tablets or Active-D liquid tincture.
Zinc is another powerful immune supplement that could help reduce your symptoms and kick the cold faster. Researchers believe that zinc helps reduce sick days by preventing the rhinovirus from multiplying and keeping viruses from getting lodged in the mucosal membranes of the upper respiratory tract. Consider taking zinc syrup or lozenges at the first sign of a cold.
Elderberry has long been used as a natural supplement for cold and flu prevention and treatment. Studies help us understand why. According to research, this ancient herbal medicinal is antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating. These benefits explain why taking elderberry during a cold or flu can help you shorten the duration of your cold and ease your symptoms.
Like elderberry, echinacea is a natural cold remedy that has been used for centuries. This herbal supplement can help reduce symptoms of colds and help your immune system fight the infection faster. It is particularly helpful for reducing sore throat, cough, and fever. But, beware when taking echinacea if you have ragweed allergies as it may exacerbate your symptoms in some cases.
Fight congestion and sinus pressure with an aromatherapy steam bath. Many essential oils have potent congestion-relieving properties that can clear up stuffy noses and help you breathe easier. Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a hot shower or bowl of hot water for a steam bath. Eucalyptus is known to clear inflammation in the sinuses, prevent mast cells from overproducing mucus, and aid in decongestion. Different oils can help soothe your other symptoms of the common cold. Try peppermint for sinus pain, tea tree oil to fight viral or bacterial infections, and lavender for trouble sleeping.
Did you know that chiropractic care can decongest your nasal passages, relieve sinus pain, and help your body overcome a cold faster? Through gentle adjustments in the face, neck, and chest, your AlignLife chiropractor can relax your throat and encourage sinus drainage. This decongests the upper respiratory tract, allowing you to breathe easier. Getting chiropractic care during a cold can also trigger a stronger immune response and promote a faster overall healing process.
Tips to Prevent the Common Cold
While these remedies come in handy when you’re actively fighting a cold, the best medicine is prevention. Follow these tips to steer clear of the common cold and other seasonal illnesses.
Every system in your body relies on water to function properly, especially the immune system. Healthy hydration ensures the immune system can easily transport blood, fluids, nutrients, and communication agents to best defend your body against invaders.
Regular physical activity flushes bacteria and other pathogens from the lungs, which could reduce your risk of getting sick. It also strengthens your white blood cells which enhances your body’s immune response.
Eat a colorful, well-balanced diet.
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep inflammation at bay so your immune system is strong and always primed to protect you.
Supplement with vitamins and minerals.
It’s not always easy to get all the nutrients your body needs through diet alone. Comprehensive supplements like Aceva’s Daily Balance and Absolute Greens help fill in nutritional gaps to ensure your body has everything it needs to stay healthy.
See your chiropractor, even when you’re healthy.
Regular chiropractic care helps your immune system function at its best, so you have the best defense against seasonal colds.
Prevent and Defeat Colds with Chiropractic Care
Whether you want to stay healthy during cold and flu season or you are currently under the weather, your AlignLife chiropractic team is here to help. Along with using therapies that relieve your symptoms, they can help you best support your body’s immune system through diet, supplements, and other healthy habits to rebuild your defenses and reduce your likelihood of getting sick again.