Although viruses are known to cause colds, medical science has yet to find a cure. All you can do is relieve the symptoms. With or without treatment, an ordinary cold lasts about a week. If one hangs on longer than 10 days, consult your doctor.
If possible, take to your bed at the first sign of a cold and baby yourself for a few days while your immune system fights the virus. While you may not suffer every possible discomfort, you may have, often in sequence: sore throat, sneezing, a runny and then stuffy nose, perhaps a slight fever with aching and restlessness. Treat only the symptoms you have, each one as it appears.
Natural remedies are often sufficient and lack the unpleasant side effects of some drugs. Drink lots of liquids. Hot soups and drinks soothe a sore throat, as does gargling with warm, salty water. A vaporizer, either the hot-steam or cold-droplet type, will relieve nose or chest congestion.
Aspirin or other analgesics relieve aches and pains, reduce swelling of inflamed tissues, and lower fever. Analgesics also have a mildly relaxing effect that may lift low spirits and help you sleep.
Before buying any over-the-counter cold “remedy,” ask your pharmacist what the ingredients are for and whether they’re safe for you. Combination cold preparations may contain drugs for relief of symptoms you don’t have-or worse, they may duplicate or conflict with other medication you are taking. Don’t take any cold preparation for longer than 3 days without a physician’s advice. Give drugs to children only on a physician’s advice.
Because you are most contagious a day or two before you know you have a cold, it’s almost impossible to avoid spreading cold viruses. Once symptoms have appeared, observe these rules: sneeze, cough, and blow your nose into tissues; put used ones in a paper bag and dispose of it daily; wash your hands often; and keep your distance from other people.