We know that moment all too well. Our throat starts to get scratchy, our nasal cavities tingle, a throbbing pain takes up residence in between our temples. It's official: A cold is brewing.
When the seasons change, we're constantly reminded of the impending doom of a cold with each sneeze, sniffle, and dreaded nose-blow we hear. And while we do our best to keep our immune systems strong and on the defense, sometimes a cold wiggles its way in and is too big for our britches (er, body) to stave off.
We asked the experts for tips on how to ease cold symptoms so that you can get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Read on for their tips.
Watch Now: 3 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of a Cold
We all know that vitamin C is the ultimate immune-boosting vitamin; Forrelli says to aim for 500 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C per day while fighting off sniffles. But another cold-fighting powerhouse to get on your radar is beta-glucan: Studies indicate it can help prevent and manage recurrent respiratory infections in children and adults.
What Is Beta-Glucan?
Beta-Glucan is a large molecule made up of smaller sugar molecules. It's typically found in yeast and grains. This soluble fiber is said to help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and boost immunity.
Eat Chicken Soup
Yeah, yeah. We've all been told to have a bowl of chicken soup when we're sick—it's good for the soul, as they say. But there's actually science behind why it works: Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant found in chicken soup (it's released from chicken during cooking) and actually chemically resembles the bronchitis medication acetylcysteine. The protein and minerals from the chicken (white meat—dark is a bit too fatty) also help boost your immune system while the salty broth helps to thin mucus. It's truly a healing miracle food—no wonder bone broth is so on trend.
Aside from just fueling your body with water to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids keeps your throat and passages lubricated, according to Amanda Carney, director of health coaching at The Well.
While Alex Caspero, head nutritionist at Hum Nutrition, adds that hot drinks are a must, too: "Hot liquids, like tea, relieve nasal congestion and can soothe the inflamed tissue that lines your nose and throat. If you're feeling queasy, grate in some fresh ginger to help calm an upset stomach." Inhaling the steam from the drink also stimulates your cilia (the little hair-like structures in your nose and trachea) to sweep germs out.
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
In addition to relieving bloating, boosting energy, and clearing acne, apple cider vinegar can help get rid of sore throats. Take it from me: I was feeling sick, so I took a sip of ACV and instantly felt the throat-soothing effects. (Though its important to note that some sore throats can be worsened by ACV, so make sure to consult with your doctor first).
Try diluting a tablespoon or two in a glass of water, or dress your salad with it. You can also forego it in liquid form altogether and take an ACV supplement.
Use a Saline Spray
You probably don't think to use a nasal irrigation product until the congestion has already hit. But according to Shilpi Agarwal, MD, since the nose and mouth are the first barriers of entry for cold viruses, you'll want to keep them moist all winter long. "By using nasal saline, it provides moisture, which can then help improve the nasal passages' ability to fight infection. Dry air ultimately dries out the nasal passages and lets more viruses in."
Wear Wet Socks (Seriously)
When Forrelli also suggested the "wet sock" method to cure a cold, I thought either A) she was joking or B) she's clearly never stepped in a puddle and had her shoe fill up with water (which is my personal nightmare). However, this method, also known as "warming socks," is thought to work with your body's natural physiology to improve colds, headaches, and insomnia. The idea is that when you place the wet socks on your feet, the cool temperature causes blood to flow away from the skin and back into the feet to warm them up.
This form of "microcirculation" performs exactly what regular blood flow does, bringing nutrients in and toxins out. However, doing this in a small area like your feet, in such a quick amount of time, rather than getting your heart rate up, pulls blood into the skin and away from areas of pain and swelling (like stuffed sinuses). There is no clinical evidence to support this methodology, so while proponents of this trick find it useful for remedying their cold symptoms, don't count it as your first line of defense. In order to do this, first, warm your feet (placing them in a hot bath works), wring out a pair of cold wet socks in the sink, and immediately place them on your feet.
Put dry socks (or plastic baggies) on over the wet socks, so you can cuddle up in bed.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting adequate sleep feels like such a luxury these days, but it's so crucial to maintaining proper health. "Sleep is really underrated for cold virus treatment," says Agarwal, "But the truth is, when we go to sleep, our immune system is boosted, and this is the time where, on a cellular level, the body focuses on fighting infections. Do everything you can to sleep more, even if that means sleeping at an angle to reduce nasal congestion or using a eucalyptus or menthol diffuser to help you breathe."
Does vitamin C help get rid of a cold?
Yes, and you should aim for between 500 to 1000 mg per day you're not feeling well.
Will drinking water or tea help with cold symptoms?
Yes, staying hydrated will help break up mucus and help with decongestion, as well as soothe sore throats.
Jesenak M, Urbancikova I, Banovcin P. Respiratory tract infections and the role of biologically active polysaccharides in their management and prevention. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):779.