What to Do When You Feel a Cold Coming On: A Guide

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What to do when you feel a cold coming on is probably one of the most common questions you could ask. Should you try to power through your day or take it easy? What should you eat, how can you relieve symptoms, and what natural remedies work? Read on to learn how you can best care for yourself and be on the mend as soon as possible.

Tips for What to Do When You Feel a Cold Coming On

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It’s Not Too Late to Save Yourself!

If you are searching for tips on what to do when you feel a cold coming on, chances are you are feeling under the weather. Maybe you have a scratchy throat and lower energy levels than usual. Yesterday you felt motivated to tackle all your deadlines at work, hit the gym, and hang out with friends or family. Now, you just want to stay in bed. The good news is that there are ways to stop a cold early and prevent a full-blown illness.

Relax and Get Some “Zs”

Getting rest is essential for a healthy immune system. Rest means getting enough sleep and also doing things to relax yourself. The mind-body connection is very important when it comes to fighting colds. Especially when you feel a cold coming, you should strive to get as much sleep as your body needs, which will vary according to the individual. Some people feel good after 4 or 5 hours, but most adults age 25-64 need a minimum of 7 to 9.

Give Yourself a Time-Out

When you start feeling sick, cancel some of your plans and spend more time at home. Maybe this means postponing a meeting with a friend or calling out from work. Don’t worry – doing so isn’t selfish or unreliable. It will help you feel better faster so that you can bring back your A-game for the people who need you.

Go on a Healthy, Non-Alcoholic Drinking Binge

Getting enough fluids is one of the biggest factors that determines the duration of your cold. If you are trying to squash a cold in its early stages, drink lots of clear fluids. Water, tea, or sports drinks will aid in your recovery. Try keeping a glass of some liquid near you at all times. Avoid alcohol, which will only dehydrate your system and make your cold symptoms worse.

How Do You Manage Cold Symptoms Naturally?

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Rest and Fluids Are the Best Medicine

While there are many over-the-counter remedies on the market, most doctors agree that rest and fluids are the most effective ways to fight a cold. These remedies are natural, inexpensive, and proven to help your immune system.

Don’t Use Medicine as an Alternative to Rest and Fluids

For people over 5 years of age, it is ok to take antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers when sick. However, do not take these medicines instead of resting. They might make you feel better, but you shouldn’t use them to power through normal activities. The rest is key to recovery. Instead, take medicine to relieve the symptoms of a cold in combination with rest–which will provide the real recovery.

Don’t Take Antibiotics

Antibiotics are effective for fighting bacterial infections, however the common cold is caused by a virus. Antibiotics will have no effect.

Try Having Tea with Honey

This is one home remedy that actually works. It will soothe your sore throat and provide hydration. However, do not give this drink to babies, as it can make them very sick.

Relieve Congestion

To fight the stuffy feeling you have and thin the mucus that your body needs to eliminate, sip warm beverages and eat soup. You can also try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

Relieve That Sore Throat

To make a sore throat feel better you can use a saltwater gargle with a solution of ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water. You can also suck on ice chips.

Eat Nutritious Food That Is Easy to Digest

Chicken noodle soup and miso soup are ideal foods when you feel sick. They provide nutrition and calories without giving your digestive system a work-out. Miso soup also has healthy bacteria that will support your gut. While you are recovering, skip foods that are heavy or spicy.

What About Vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc?

We cannot guarantee that these common treatments will work because the scientific evidence is inconsistent. However, when taken in reasonable quantities they are unlikely to do any harm. If you review the evidence and believe that you might benefit from one or more of these remedies, go ahead and take them. Be careful with echinacea, as it may have negative interactions with certain drugs, and with zinc, as it can have some unwanted side effects.

What If You Could Just Skip the Cold Altogether?

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Prevention is the Best Cure: Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

One easy, natural way to manage cold symptoms is to prevent them in the first place. The stronger and healthy your body is, the less likely it will be to catch a cold if you are exposed to the virus. Eating nutritious food and avoiding a diet that is high in sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods is key. Focus on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, good sources of protein, and healthy grains.

Exercise Regularly

Another component of maintaining a healthy body year-round, not just during the cold season, is getting exercise. If you enjoy working out hard, you can train for a marathon, go to the gym for some lifting, or work with a personal trainer. However, if heavy exercise isn’t your thing, some yoga or walking several times a week is all you need to make a difference. You can even try adventurous, creative ways to exercise such as rock climbing or dance.

Manage Your Stress

Managing your stress isn’t something you should do only when you feel a cold coming. Among the negative effects stress has on your body is the way in which it depletes the cells in your immune system that fight viruses. Cortisol, a hormone your body releases in response to stress, will also compromise your immune system. It is important for you to find ways to relax naturally, such as spending time with friends, meditation, or activities that you enjoy.

Don’t Hang Out With Sick People

The common cold is caused by a virus. Viruses are spread person to person, so if you are in the same space as someone who is sick, you might get sick too. If you know your friend has a cold, it might be a good idea to wait until he or she is better before you make plans.

Limit Your Exposure to Healthy People When You are Sick

Inversely, when you are sick you can pass the virus on to others. If you know you have a cold, it is ok to cancel plans with people and stay home. It is ok to stay home from work. It is ok to skip the gym. Don’t succumb to the pressure many of us feel to honor all of our social and work commitments even when we feel sick. Doing so will only extend the duration of your cold and spread it to others.

Wash Your Hands Regularly

When you are exposed to common cold viruses, they often end up on your hands and can enter your body when you eat or touch your face. Washing your hands removes those viruses and reduces your likelihood of getting sick. Remember, you won’t have to ask yourself what to do when you feel a cold coming on if you don’t get sick in the first place.

When Should You See a Doctor for a Cold?

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Maybe you have tried rest, fluids, some natural remedies, and some medication to relieve the pain. If your symptoms don’t clear up within 5-7 days, if you have severe pain in your head or throat, run a high fever, or if you think you have the flu, you should see a doctor. Going to the doctor early might be a good idea in the case of pregnant women, small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

Flu Symptoms:

  • A sick feeling that is more intense and comes on faster than what you would experience if you had a common cold
  • Chills and body aches
  • A high fever


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Getting sick is no fun. Knowing what to do when you feel a cold coming on will help you reduce the duration of your illness. First and foremost, rest and fluids are the best solutions. Taking some mediation to ease your symptoms, eating healthy food, and managing your stress will also help you feel better. Hopefully, with some preventative measures, you won’t have to ask yourself what to do when you feel a cold coming on again in the near future.

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