There’s still no cure for the common cold, but keeping your sinuses clear, a fever down, and your immune system in top condition can reduce the misery by as much as four days. At the first sign of symptoms, our experts suggest the following steps:
1. Rinse out your nose. To keep nasal passages clear and flush out the cold virus, fill a neti pot (pictured) or nasal rinse bottle with saline solution—1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of warm water. Tilt your head forward and pour the solution into one nostril and let it drain out the other. Repeat on alternating sides until all the water is used. “Add a packet of probiotics powder like Lactobacillus GG or Bifidobacteria to the water,” suggests Ronald Stram, M.D., director and founder of the Center for Integrative Health and Healing in Delmar, N.Y. “It stimulates your body to produce more beneficial bacteria, which can reduce the number of days you’re sick.”
2. Wear wet socks (really!). Before bedtime, soak a pair of cotton ankle socks in cold water and wring them out. Warm your feet for ten to 15 minutes in hot water, put on the damp socks, then a pair of dry thermal or woolen socks, and go to bed. “As your body warms up the socks, it sends blood to your feet, which reduces a fever, makes you less congested, and helps you sleep,” says Stram, who suggests doing it for three consecutive nights.
3. Zap a cold with zinc. Your body’s levels of zinc—critical in fighting infection—dip when a cold sets in, says Stram. To reduce a cold’s duration by up to four days, take a zinc gluconate lozenge (like Cold-EEZE) every two hours.
4. Load up on C. Take 600 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily: it mobilizes antibodies to quickly travel to the infection site. It can’t prevent a cold, but it may help you recover faster. Look for a buffered supplement, which will be easier on your stomach. If symptoms worsen, increase daily intake to 2,000 to 3,000 mg.
5. Try soup and salt water. Plenty of chicken soup—with its amino acids and antioxidants—and gargling with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water) can ease a sore throat and flush out mucus.
6. Take a bath. “A warm bath helps stimulate blood and lymph circulation which can help clear toxins,” says Mario Roxas, N.D., a naturo- path in Sandpoint, Idaho. Or take a shower alternating three minutes of hot water with 30 to 60 seconds of cold water. Do this three times, ending with cold, to jumpstart lymph circulation, he suggests.