HOW TO AVOID GETTING PUMMELED BY A COLD
When you start feeling the pre-sick blues, don't resign yourself to the fact that it's going to be terrible. There are things you can do that might shorten the duration of your cold or, at the very least, reduce your pain and suffering, says Neil Schachter, M.D., professor at Mount Sinai. Read more: http://thecut.io/1WhO8c9
- •Pop A Zinc Lozenge, Don’t Use A Spray“Zinc is a metal that has been shown in some studies to prevent viruses from replicating,” says Dr. Schachter. “The less virus you have, the better off you are.” Specifically, it might make your cold shorter. It’s best to take lozenges as soon as you start feeling junky because that’s when they’re most effective. “Once you’re there with a box of tissues and you can’t breathe, it’s too late.” But follow the dosing instructions to the letter, he says.
- •Go Vitamin C Crazy (It Can’t Hurt)In addition to reducing your overall downtime, Vitamin C could actually make your symptoms suck less. Dr. Schachter says it hasn’t been overwhelmingly proven to work, but it’s reasonably safe so it’s worth a shot. He recommends taking 250 to 500 milligrams of vitamin C once a day for the first few days of your cold. Of course, you can drink orange juice, but there’s only about 125 milligrams in an eight-ounce glass, so you’d need to throw back a few to get the same effect as a supplement.
- •Don't Just Throw All the Medicine at Your ColdOnce your cold hits for real, you’re on the defensive and you might choose the most aggressive-sounding pills at the drugstore. But beware the OTC combination drugs if you’re going to use another medicine of any kind, even a pain reliever–slash–fever reducer, he says. These multi-ingredient formulas often contain aspirin or acetaminophen so you could be doubling up without even realizing it.
- •Take an AntihistamineDr. Schachter suggests Allegra, Claritin, or Zyrtec to dry up your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe, as well as an anti-inflammatory such as Tylenol or Advil to help with the wretched body aches that come with getting sick, which are the result of chemicals called cytokines being released. He typically doesn’t recommend decongestants because they can give you a rebound effect: the more you use them, the less effective they’ll be.
- •Deal with Being Stuffed UpAntihistamines will help with mild congestion, but if you’re really stuffed, try a saline nasal spray, he says. Not only will it help thin the fluids created by the mucous membranes in your upper airway, making it easier to blow that stuff out, but since it’s a high-concentration salt solution, it will suck water out of your nasal passages, reducing swelling and helping to bring sweet, sweet oxygen through your nostrils once more. Try that twice a day and more often if it’s really bad.
- •De-gunkIn general, it’s good to keep gunk and mucous at a minimum, because when the fluid in your sinuses and ear canals gets thick, it can cause blockage and lead to infections as other cells and debris accumulate, he says. All of which could spell a sinus infection or bronchitis. Plus, treating congestion is good for your fellow man. “The more congested you are, the more likely you are to contaminate other surfaces that people who don’t have a cold may put their hands on."
- •Hit The (Warm) FluidsThey’ll help you stay hydrated and keep your mucous thinner. Dr. Schachter says warm liquids are the most helpful because drinking them can help loosen things up. Tea is a good candidate since it also contains a compound called theobromine that’s thought to act like a bronchodilator, something that helps you breathe better. At least one study suggests that breathing in the aerosolized fat when we sip chicken soup can help reduce levels of those crappy pain-inducing cytokines, he says.
- •Now, Try to SleepIf you’re doing all of this stuff but you still feel worse when you’re trying to sleep at night, that’s normal, Dr. Schachter says. When you lie down, mucous has an opportunity to collect in the back of your throat which does not a restful slumber make. He recommends drinking warm liquids and doing another round of nasal spray before bed. Propping yourself up on a few pillows can do wonders, too.
- •An Ounce of PreventionIt’s a good idea to carry alcohol-based sanitizer and disinfect after being around someone who’s sick, he says, but it doesn’t hurt to de-germ in everyday hypochondria-inducing situations, like after touching doorknobs, using communal pens, or taking a plane ride with 100 of your new best friends. During cold and flu season, he suggests you “be cautious and err on the side of decontaminating yourself.” Let your germophobe flag fly, and pass the hand sanitizer.