- To get rid of a cold, you should make sure that you're drinking lots of water and sleeping enough.
- To relieve your symptoms, try gargling saltwater, sipping warm tea, and taking pain relievers.
- Supplements like zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea may help your body fight off the cold.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.
We still don't have a cure for the common cold, but there are ways to relieve symptoms like cough, sore throat, and congestion.
Home remedies like gargling salt water and using a humidifier can help ease your symptoms while your immune system fights off the virus.
Here are 12 things you can do to relieve cold symptoms and feel better.
1. Drink plenty of fluids
When your airways are inflamed by a cold, they produce more mucus, which can become thick and hard to cough up.
You also lose some water each time you blow your nose. "And you need to replace the fluid you're blowing into all those tissues," says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, a professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University.
While you have a cold, try to drink about eight 8 oz cups of water per day.
2. Get enough sleep
If you're stuffy, and having trouble falling asleep, it may help to lie on your back with your head propped up with an extra pillow. This can also help to drain mucus from your sinuses while you sleep.
A 2009 study found that people who slept less than seven hours per night were nearly three times more likely to get sick after researchers exposed them to a cold virus, compared with people who slept more than eight hours.
3. Use saline drops
The congestion you feel during a cold is often caused by especially thick or dried out mucus in your sinus and nasal passages. This makes it harder to blow your nose and gives you that stuffed up feeling.
Washing your nasal passages with saline solution can help thin out and moisten mucus, making it easier to clear out.
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You can find saline nose drops at most pharmacies, as well as a squeeze bottle or a neti pot to get the saline up into your nasal passage.
To use saline from a squeeze bottle or neti pot, follow these steps:
- Fill the bottle or pot with the saline solution.
- Insert the bottle or pot into one nostril.
- Gently squeeze or pour the saline backward into that nostril.
- The saline should drain out of the other nostril or your mouth.
- Repeat with the other nostril.
- Gently blow your nose after finishing.
4. Gargle salt water
If you have a swollen, sore throat, you can try gargling salt water to relieve the pain.
"Salt water draws out water from the inflamed throat, relieving the pressure in the lining and thus reducing the feeling of soreness," says Edelman.
To do a saltwater gargle, follow these steps:
- Mix half a teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water.
- Tilt your head back and gargle the water, making sure not to swallow it.
5. Take pain relievers
Colds often cause headaches, particularly if you're very congested. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen can help ease the pain.
If you develop a fever, it's best to take acetaminophen, which acts as both a pain reliever and fever reducer.
6. Take a spoonful of honey
Your esophagus may become irritated when you have a cold — this irritation can trigger a reflex that stimulates the muscles in your airway to make you cough, Edelman says.
Eating a spoonful of honey or drinking warm lemon water mixed with honey can help soothe this irritation and calm your urge to cough.
7. Use a humidifier
"Most colds occur in fall and winter, when humidity is low," Fugh-Berman says. This can dry out the mucus membranes in your sinuses.
Using a humidifier may help ease congestion. "Humidifying the air breathed in helps thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up," Edelman says.
8. Sip warm liquids
Drinking warm liquids like broth or tea may help relieve symptoms like sore throat and make your nose feel less stuffy.
But if you're drinking tea, make sure to choose a non-caffeinated option like a decaf or herbal tea, as caffeine can dehydrate you.
9. Take over the counter medications
If natural remedies aren't working for you, try over the counter drugs to help relieve certain cold symptoms:
- Cough: Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan (Robitussin) can help by decreasing activity in the area of your brain that triggers coughing.
- Congestion: Decongestants like oxymetazoline (Vicks nasal spray) or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can help by shrinking the blood vessels in your nasal passages. Your nasal passages become inflamed when you have a cold, making it harder to breathe and causing a stuffy feeling, so by reducing the inflammation you may find relief.
10. Take echinacea
Echinacea is an herb that may help treat cold symptoms because it has antiviral properties and can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Research is conflicted on whether echinacea can help with colds, but some studies suggest that it can shorten the length of a cold by 1.5 days.
Experts recommend taking tablets with 4,000 mg per day while you have a cold. You can also take up to 10 ml of a liquid extract.
11. Take vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that can help boost your immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells.
A 2016 review of seven studies found some evidence that taking vitamin C supplements can help reduce the length and severity of a cold, though the researchers note that more studies are still needed.
The researchers advise that if you want to try vitamin C, you should take 8 mg daily for at least five days, starting within 24 hours of your first symptoms.
12. Take zinc lozenges
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A 2015 review of three studies found that taking daily zinc lozenges reduced the length of cold symptoms like muscle aches, cough, and congestion.
The researchers suggest taking 80 mg per day of zinc acetate in lozenge form while you have a cold. For best results, it's best to start within 24 hours of your symptoms starting.
Cold symptoms can be uncomfortable, but there are many at-home remedies you can try to help ease the pain.
Methods like using saline solution, taking zinc lozenges, and taking a spoonful of honey can all help you feel better and possibly heal faster.
If your symptoms last longer than a week or become severe, reach out to your doctor for treatment.
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