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How to get rid of a cold: Tried and tested remedies for feeling better

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It's that time of year when everybody's a bit under the weather. Here's how you can shift that lingering cough, sore throat and runny nose

Cold season is very much upon us.

Chances are you and your colleagues will be struck down with sniffles, coughs and sore throats at some point over the coming months. Probably more than once.

But surely there must be a way to stave off the common cold - or at least lessen its impact until it goes away.

Here's some tried, tested and scientifically proven ways to get rid of your cold.


Painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin are the only medication known to treat colds. They come in a huge variety of forms - and the painkiller based cold remedies often come with other ingredients that are supposed to help.

But whether you choose to take it in pill, capsule, soluble tablet or hot drink, the thing that's doing the most good is the painkiller.


That said, decongestants - taken by mouth or up your nose - can help too, relieving that blocked up feeling and clearing out your sinus cavities. Most cold and flu remedy pills and hot drinks will have some kind of decongestant in them.

They can give you a bit of a pick-me-up too, which can be helpful during the day - but a nightmare if you want to go to sleep.


Finally, there's some recent research that suggests taking zinc syrup, tablets or lozenges could speed up recovery and make the symptoms less harsh.

But it's not a good idea to take that for a long time, because it can have side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Check the box

As with any medications, you should always check the box to make sure anything you're taking for your cold isn't going to badly interact with any other medications you're taking.

Some antidepressants can react badly when combined with some decongestants. If you're in any doubt, check the NHS website or talk to your doctor.

Should I pester my doctor for antibiotics?

No. Your cold is almost certainly caused by a viral infection, and antibiotics will do absolutely nothing to relieve it. What they might do is give you unpleasant side effects and increase the resistance of bugs to antibiotics, so they might not work when you actually do need them.

What about non-medicated options?

Inhaling steam can help loosen the mucus in your nose, making it easier to clear by blowing.

Fill a bowl with hot water, put a towl over your head and breath deeply with your eyes closed. If you're at work and can't get away with having a bowl of hot water on your desk, chemists sell inhalators. While they're essentially just big plastic jugs with a mouthpiece - they're almost as good as a bowl, and much less complicated.

For your sore throat you could suck on menthol sweets or gargle with salt water.

Eating, drinking and resting

When you've got a cold, you sweat a lot and have a runny nose - so if you don't replace those fluids, you'll just feel worse. Drink plenty of fluids.

You should also rest up. While we're not saying you should take a week off work or anything, you'll get better faster if you rest.

And you should eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables - but that's pretty much true whether you have a cold or not.

And for goodness sake, wash your hands and sneeze into a tissue. Keep it to yourself.

What about herbal remedies?

There are plenty of herbal remedies for the common cold out there - the most commonly cited is echinacea.

While people claim the herb makes people recover from the common cold quicker than paracetamol based remedies, there's no firm evidence to support this. There have been various trials with inconclusive results, but nothing solid.

The same can be said for vitamin C. While many claim it has preventative and healing properties with regard to the cold and flu, studies found it has very, very limited benefit.


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