We’ve all been there. A sneezing fit that turns into the tickle at the back of your throat, and before you know it, you have the sniffles – “Oh no, I’m getting sick!” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults contract an average of two to three colds every year, and children can contract even more. So how do you stop a cold when you feel it coming on? Is it possible to get rid of a cold in 24 hours? Here’s all you need to know about stopping a cold or flu first thing, how to treat your symptoms so you can alleviate discomfort and prevent the virus from spreading to others.
Cold vs Flu Symptoms: What’s the Difference?
The most important thing is knowing what you are dealing with. Both colds and flu are considered respiratory illnesses, and they often have similar signs.
Common Cold Symptoms:
- Sore throat and/or coughing
- Frequent sneezing
- A runny or blocked nose
Common Flu Symptoms:
- More acute versions of cold symptoms
- Fever (a temperature of 38 degrees or higher)
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
4 Ways to Get Rid of a Cold in 24 Hours
1. Don’t overdo it.
When you start to feel like you’re getting sick, this is often your body’s way of telling you to ease up, slow down, and take care of yourself. This is definitely not the time to run laps around the track or lose sleep over a project (or party). It’s your chance to rest, recoup, and let your body heal. It’s not a good idea to push your limits, sapping more of your body’s energy will just make it harder for you to get well.
2. Get enough sleep.
Within the first 24 hours of getting sick, you should try to sleep as much as possible so you can give your immune system a chance to fight the virus . This doesn’t mean you should stay in bed binge-watching your favorite shows – try to get some proper sleep.
3. Stock up on OTC meds.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine can offer relief for early cold and flu symptoms. Some options include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Make sure you read the label carefully to follow the recommended dosages.
4. Fluids are your new best friend.
Staying hydrated is essential. While your immune system gears up to fight the virus, this is one of the best things you can do for your body. So that means you need to stay away from sugar and caffeine-loaded drinks – water, herbal (decaffeinated) teas, sports drinks (not energy drinks), and sugar-free drinks are your best options. Bonus: hot tea with lemon and honey will soothe your throat and help you with your liquids intake too!
What to Do When It Lasts Longer Than 24 Hours?
If you don’t notice an improvement in 24 hours, you might want to check in with a doctor. Especially since many other conditions share similar symptoms to colds and flus – like bronchitis, strep throat, and COVID-19. Telling them apart can be confusing. In all these instances, early treatment can get you feeling better faster and prevents the spread of the virus. If you don’t catch it in time, a cold can last anywhere between 3 to 7 days, but sometimes they can hang on for as long as 2 weeks.
Simple Cold & Flu Remedies
If you haven’t managed to kill the virus within 24 hours, here are a few remedies that can ease symptoms.
Chicken noodle soup for the soul and the common cold.
Isn’t this just an old wives’ tale? Well, the chicken soup cure may not be a myth. Strange as it may seem, several studies show that chicken soup may actually reduce the symptoms of a cold. Specifically, chicken soup, since it has been shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties which may help relieve some of your cold symptoms.
Vegetarian? Up your garlic dosage. Luckily you don’t need to chomp raw garlic cloves, since evidence suggests that this cold – and vampire – repellant is best eaten cooked. For maximum benefits: crush the cloves first, then sauté or lightly bake.
A steamy bath or shower works two-fold because the steam eases nasal congestion and relaxes your body. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to help with a stuffy head and open your airways.
Not vitamin C, but vitamin Z.
While there is some truth behind the old cliché of stocking up on citrus fruits and vitamin C, it’s not nearly as effective as another important mineral – zinc! Studies show that this trace element – which our immune system cells need to function – seems to interfere with the bugs that cause the common cold.
Go ancient with ginger-root
The health benefits of ginger have been heralded for centuries, but now science is backing this folk medicine. Just a few slices in boiling water with a teaspoon of raw honey may soothe a cough or sore throat. Research even suggests that it can even combat nausea and calm an upset stomach – symptoms that often accompany colds and flu. Tip: amp up the ante and add a teaspoon of ground turmeric.
So, make a cup of ginger tea, get into bed, and stay away from other people until you feel better. If your symptoms persist you should consult a doctor for a medical diagnosis.