Here's a fall riddle for you. Which comes first, the blankets and hot tea or the cold that keeps you from enjoying anything but? Cold season is descending upon us as quickly as pumpkin spice-everything season, and at some point you'll come down with one, too. No, there aren't pumpkin-flavoured cough drops (I think), but there are some simple things you can do to ease cold symptoms.
What Actually is (and isn't) a Cold?
Having "a cold" is a catch-all term for a group of upper respiratory symptoms, like coughing, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, or runny nose. Sometimes, despite how it feels, these symptoms are actually beneficial, as your body expels the agents causing the infection.
Helpful though they may be, no one enjoys cold symptoms, and the sooner we can get over it the better.
Before tackling a self-diagnosed cold, make sure you differentiate it from the influenza virus, which has similar respiratory symptoms. The flu generally comes on faster and harder, with accompanying body aches, while a cold might start slower and be a bit less severe.
After you know your diagnosis, at-home care for the flu and a cold are pretty similar, with a few common steps to take toward wellness:
- Avoid Stress
- Listen to Your Body
Follow these five steps as soon as you feel symptoms begin to keep the common cold as nothing more than an excuse to binge on that new Netflix series!
Make Rest a Priority.
We've all been there -- a full schedule ahead, then the congestion sets in. "It's only a cold!" And we press on. But this could be working against you. Allowing yourself to rest, take it easy, and even take some naps might set you back a day or so at work, but pushing through it might keep you down longer.
As noted in a 2002 review of the way the brain interacts with the immune system, sleep is one of the primary ways antigen response is boosted after a viral attack. So, go ahead. Curl up and rest for awhile!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
One of the simplest and best ways to boost immune function in everyday life is to stay hydrated. The human body is primarily comprised of water, keeping that sore throat from drying out, thinning mucus and moving immune responses where they need to be.
Staying hydrated is definitely a "fake it 'til you make it" situation, so keep a cup with a bendy straw or squeeze-top bottle nearby to make it as easy as possible. Also remember that clear liquids help hydrate you, so warm herbal teas and broth help, too!
Try Not to Stress.
When you keep pushing to get things done, worry about upcoming obligations, or allow daily stresses to get you down, your immune system is affected. Once again, we might be well-intentioned and seemingly responsible by trying to keep juggling things, but ultimately we're making things worse.
Turn on the TV. Listen to music. Enjoy the downtime -- as much as you can when your face is a fountain of mucus -- and wait it out. Stressing about what-could-have-been will only keep you from more if-you'd-gotten-well.
Listen to Your Body.
This might fall under the category of avoiding stress, but it's worth a closer mention. For all of the remedies and advice out there, only you know your body. If you don't feel like eating or moving, or if you want to sip a giant smoothie and go for a jog, only you know your body. Give it some credit! Shake of the stresses, the should-be and the ought-tos, and listen to what your body needs. A little intuition goes a long way toward wellness.
Bump up Your Supplements. With all of that said, your body probably isn't telling you to get lots of nutrients from a full and varied diet. It's too busy kicking that virus out. So, bump up your supplement intake! Consider probiotics to improve immune function -- beta glucan to mitigate stress and lighten the body's load, and vitamin D to make up for the sunshine you're missing underneath that fluffy blanket of yours. They're two of the more reliable cold-busting remedies there are!
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