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How to feel better when you have a cold?
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How to feel better when you have a cold?

The common cold, made more common by the fact that you can just “catch” it from someone in the vicinity can make you feel really miserable once it decides to take residence in your body for at least the next seven days.

But that does not mean you have to suffer. It is possible to pamper yourself and feel much better, even though you can cure the cold. So let’s take a look at what works, what doesn’t work, and hmmm…what probably can’t hurt!

Everyone’s family has traditional cold remedies passed on through the generations. The “Kashayam”, a concoction made of herbs boiled in water and consumed with honey, the chicken soup (for the cold) that is believed to get rid of that congestion, etc. are all examples

So, what works?

Catching a cold usually means not feeling yourself for the next two weeks. Here’s how you can reduce the misery:

Consume water and lots of liquids

While it is tough to flush out that cold, you can certainly help yourself by drinking lots of fluids. These could be water, juice, warm lemon water with honey, clear broths and soups. These help relieve the congestion and keep you from getting dehydrated. Remember, fluids do not include booze and caffeinated soda, as they can dehydrate you. Although personally I can’t ever imagine sacrificing drinking coffee!

The salt water gargle

Dissolve a quarter/half teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and use it to gargle. This can make a sore throat feel better.

Nasal drops and sprays

You’ve probably heard of or used nasal sprays/drops such as Otrivin. These relieve nasal congestion –you know the awful moments when your nose seems hopelessly blocked and uncomfortable and you feel you’ll be breathing through your mouth forever. Doctors recommend it even for children.

Chicken soup

For the cold. Research shows that chicken soup can relieve cold and flu symptoms. It is an anti-inflammatory and also helps rid the body of congestion.

Over the counter medication

Okay, so there’s actually no OTC drug that can prevent your cold or even reduce the number of days you suffer. Also, there are side-effects associated with all of them if you’re tempted to use them over a long period. Some of them actually make you feel worse. Paracetamol (Crocin) – which is believed to be “safe”, can cause liver damage if taken over a long period. So, make sure you read the label carefully to make sure you don’t overdose.

If you also develop a cough that does not go away even if your cold feels better, it is essential to see your doctor. Warm water with lemon and honey is good for a cold. (No honey for babies, though – they’re sweet enough!).


These are prescribed when you sneeze a lot and your eyes water and your nose runs. However these only give very temporary relief and you have to get the correct dosage. Examples are Cetrizine, Allegra. Hmm. Used to think that Benadryl was real yummy when I was a kid. Oh, and don’t think you can just go and buy a cough syrup and drink it when you want. J  Danger zone there.



Colds are common in winter because the viruses are happier in dry conditions. The dry air also dehydrates the mucous layer, which are responsible for the stuffy nose and throat irritation. So, the moral of the story is to be in a moist environment. Some people have humidifiers in their homes. For those that don’t, the traditional steam inhalation works.

What does not work.

You have probably felt frustrated at trying various suggestions only to find that they do not work, or just make you feel worse. Here are remedies that won’t work. Really.


No doctor prescribes an antibiotic when you consult for a cold. (all that waiting, what a waste!) Antibiotics may kill bacteria, but not the cold virus.  So just don’t pester your doctor for antibiotics when you really don’t need them. If you’re adamant, know that taking antibiotics you don’t need can help you achieve two things: grow antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your body, and cause awful side effects.

Cold and cough medications for children

No OTC cold and cough medications for children under age 4 unless absolutely necessary and prescribed by the physician.  Recently, there was this gruesome mess in Chennai where parents of children mixed up Crocin drops with Crocin syrup. They mistook the drops version for syrup – two absolutely different concentrations – and figured that a double dose of one or other would do no harm. In the drops, there is 100 mg of drug in one ml while with the syrup, there is 125 mg in five ml. Sigh.


Zinc is supposed to help fight cold but research studies are yet to show any real benefit. So, a lousy taste in the mouth and nausea are for sure – while it is not known how effective it really is. What to do? Avoid it.

Intranasal zinc can kill your sense of smell, too. So read that label, when you look at zinc-containing medication.

The feel-good stuff for cold

What about Vitamin C? It may not prevent a cold coming on, but apparently, taking enough vitamin C before the symptoms of cold show up can help get rid of the cold faster. Hmm. How do you figure that out? Simply by getting enough vitamins on a regular basis!

Vicks Vaporub is helpful too. On the chest and the back – you’ve seen those ads, right? It definitely helps. Rubbing it on the soles of the feet seems to relieve a cough too.

Then there’s Ginger Chai (tea) that feels good too.

In any case – take good care of yourself. Which means, no frozen or too-cold stuff, drink plenty of hot liquids, have fruits and vegetables for natural vitamins and minerals. A cold can be a terrible thing, but don’t be tempted to try every remedy you hear about. Rest well, and don’t forget to wash your hands often.

Here’s a knock, knock for you:

Knock! Knock!

Who’s there?


Eddy who?

Eddy idea how I cad cure this cold

0 30 November, 2010 Health November 30, 2010

About the author

Vidya's healthy concoctions (read: health posts) makes the perfect cup of GingerChai for body and soul of our readers. Follow @vidyasury You can read her personal concoctions in her personal blog, Going A-Musing

View all articles by Vidya Sury


      1. mani

        well with so many advances made in the medical field, the common cold is still yet to have a cure. btw simple saline water is also a good nasal decongestion drop for kids

    1. Vidya Sury

      Yeah. Especially after living in Hyderabad, as we found out :-). Got to live with it. I remember when we visited the doctor with a cold, all those years ago, he just brushed it aside – as if to say – oh come on – a cold is a part of life!

  1. Rachana Shakyawar

    Great post…!
    I most of the time during cold suffer from severe sore throat..running nose. So then I enjoy my strong ginger tea and often before sleeping at night…eat little toasted
    2-3 cloves of garlic. Garlic instantly help me in curing excess runni-nose.

    I think, from this post I shall be recommending more ‘warm water with honey n lemon juice’ as it is easy to equip and help
    But then I wanna know how important is to have that with warm water…??!!

      1. Vidya Sury

        Rachna – warm water soothes the throat. Cold water aggravates. I usually go with warm, which becomes kind of room temp by the time the honey and lemon are added.

    1. Vidya Sury

      For some people, butter upsets the tummy. 😀 I love butter too, but I’d go for foods that contain the B-Complex pack for the best benefit – wheat, oats/ yogurt/ leafy green veg, beans, peas…you know?

      1. Rachana Shakyawar

        Thats very Healthy!
        I do eat all that you refer…however…I simply love Butter and during winters cannot resist it at all. I need it in all…on butter, in chapati, under paratha…on rice…in dal…hehehe…and even in my mouth directly from the fridge :))

  2. Sunil

    My Uncle’s friend suggested this which seemed to worked out for him in big way & seems to be really working, Himalaya Ayurvedic capsules of Tulasi contents with name Cold & cough written on it taken daily helps in keeping cold away…i have allergic rhinitis or hay fever..characterized by cold often, this tulasi is proving to be good technique…also wanna try Neti pot…its just a pot, shaped for suitable pouring water from one nostril & letting it from other to cleanse the nasal system…looking for this pot & suitable doctor to do this under instruction…wanna go to healthy ways after taking cetrizet D & avil for may years now. If you can advice me on healthy remedies that would be great…currently wanna try with these 2 things which seem like working good !

  3. arpana

    Actually in India most of people would prefer to take refuge in foods you mentioned off course some one else must prove a generous support in that matter.

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