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We’re officially in cold season! Joy. Unless you’re blessed with an amazing immune system it’s almost inevitable that we get sick sometime between October and March. Maybe it’s just some minor sniffles, or maybe it’s full out flu.
Unfortunately, both the cold and flu are viruses, which means antibiotics will do nothing against them. Don’t bother running to your doctor. Insisting on antibiotics only helps create antibiotic resistant superbugs, and that doesn’t help anyone.
Of course, if you have prolonged symptoms, a fever that lasts for days, or something otherwise doesn’t seem right, than you should absolutely consider going to your doctor. And if you have an underlying infection, then maybe antibiotics will help. But before running to your doctor at the slightest sniffle, try these natural cold busters.
A Note on Medications
In no way do I want to imply that you shouldn’t take medicine to ease cold symptoms. Nor do I want to shame anyone who does take medicine.
With two, young, energetic boys, I need to maintain a certain level of functionality, so I have no qualms taking pseudoephedrine for my congestion. It helps me take better care of them, and makes me feel better.
Whether you take medicine or not, these natural cold busters will help you feel better. If you do take medicine, consider them boosters. If you don’t, they’re your line of defense against the common cold.
An Ounce of Prevention
You know the saying. Start by taking good care of yourself to keep yourself strong and healthy.
We all know we’re supposed to wash hands frequently to stop the spread of germs. In fact, doctors often advise that frequent hand washing is one of the best cold busters there is. But do you know how to wash your hands properly?
Seems like a strange question, doesn’t it? But I’m willing to bed most of us don’t wash your hands like we should. Did you know you’re supposed to wash your hands for the length of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice? Doing so gives with soap and hot water time to work its magic. So the next time you’re up at the sink to wash your hands start humming the Happy Birthday song!
Eat well, drink water
Make sure your body has the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy, and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and happy. You don’t have to be a health nut, but try to make sure you’re getting plenty of fruits and vegetables and eat a fairly balanced diet.
If you struggle to get enough water during the day, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to make it more appealing.
Get your beauty sleep
Your body can’t fight off a cold if it’s worn down. Everyone is so busy that it’s hard to get enough rest. Kids, jobs, family, and every thing else keeps us running. But all that running can wear us down after awhile and makes us more susceptible to getting sick.
I know it’s hard but do your best to get at least seven hours of sleep at night (I’m laughing as a I type that!). If you’re just zoning out on the couch and watching TV, force yourself to turn it off and get to bed a little bit earlier. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Natural Cold Busters
So despite your best efforts, you still come down with the cold. Even the most avid hand washer is going to get sick sometimes. So now, what do you do about? Take medicine if you want and are able, but also try these natural cold busters to help yourself feel better while your body fights off the bugs.
Your body uses a lot of energy keeping itself warm, energy that could be used to boost your immune system and fight your cold. Help yourself out by keeping yourself nice and warm: throw on an extra layer, wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, and use a heated mattress pad if you have one.
Take a Day Off
Once your sick, one of the best cold busters is rest. If you’re able to, take a day off of work. I know it’s hard sometimes, especially if you’re an hourly worker and won’t get paid for a missed day, but sometimes taking a day off to rest earlier helps you to get better faster so you don’t end up being out more days later.
For you stay-at-home parents a day off isn’t really an option. If you have friends or family nearby that can help out, take advantage of it. If you don’t, do what you can to maximize your rest. Maybe let the kids watch a little bit more TV or encourage more independent play, like building a pillow fort (and maybe taking a nap in it?). Set out toys, crayons, coloring books, playdoh and let them go to town a bit. It minimizes the amount of time you have to get up at least.
Go ahead and let the house slide for a day or two also. Dishes can stay in the sink for a night and laundry can wait another day. If skipping your chores gets you some extra rest so you can get better, it’s worth it.
Push Those Fluids
Water really is an amazing thing. Our bodies need it to function at its peak. And it becomes especially important if you have a fever to combat dehydration.
Surprisingly though, for the common cold, there doesn’t seem to be much research as to why drinking fluids helps. Maybe it’s because it helps prevent your sinuses from getting as dried out. Or maybe chalk it up to one of those old wives tales that actually seem to help. Regardless, you can’t really go wrong with making sure your hydrated, so grab a glass of water and get to sipping.
Juice is fine too, in moderation. The downside of juice is that it’s super sugary so limiting to one glass per day is probably a good rule, and stick to juices without any sugar added.
Sore Throat Soothers
Doctors are increasingly mixed on the efficacy of cough syrup. Many are finding that, at best, it’s ineffective, and at worse, it can be downright dangerous, especially for kids.
Since my kids are little they’re not able to take cough syrup but I was desperate to find something that could help soothe their coughs. My research led me to raw honey and it’s something I’ve had great success with. I actually wrote an entire post on the health and wellness benefits of raw honey, if you’re interested in more information.
To get the cold busting benefits of honey, you must use raw honey and not the store-bought honey that you find in those little plastic bears at the grocery store. That “honey” often doesn’t even contain honey! Instead, it’s mostly high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. That doesn’t have the antibacterial benefits that raw honey has.
To use raw honey as a cough suppressant, simply swallow a tablespoon as needed. Raw honey can be tough for the kids to take on its own but I’ve had good luck with Little Remedies 100% Natural Honey Cough Syrup. It’s simply honey mixed with a little bit of water to make it easier to swallow. Just remember that babies under twelve months old should never ingest honey, as it could lead to botulism. As always, you should consult your pediatrician about medicines to give your child.
Warm beverages are great cold busters, especially when you have an irritated throat. Tea is often best because it may also have antioxidant power for additional benefits. Coffee is okay too, but it can be dehydrating, so of that’s your drink of choice, make sure you’re getting plenty of water.
Another option is hot water with lemon and honey. The hot water will soothe your throat while lemon provides a vitamin C boost, which is known to boost immune systems. And a spoonful of raw honey can tame coughs like I just described.
I wrote an entire post on a neti pot so I won’t go into too much detail here, but it is one of the best cold busters I know. Basically a neti pot is a device to help flush out your sinuses. It sounds a bit gross, and to be honest, it kind of is, but it’s also really effective.
Neti pots flush out all of the gunk in your sinuses that can lead to congestion and sinus pain and pressure. It’s best used as a preventative measure but it can really help once you get sick too. I typically use it in the morning to help flush out all of the mucus that settled into my sinuses overnight.
In addition to flushing out your sinuses, neti pots are good for rehydrating your nasal passages. This prevents cracking, which can lead to nosebleeds.
Two notes of caution:
- Don’t use a neti pot immediately before you go to bed. You should use it at least twenty minutes before laying down. This will force the water through your sinuses rather than having it backup onto your ears or run down your throat.
- If you’re really congested you’re probably better off skipping the neti pot. You don’t want to squeeze too hard to try to force the water through because if it can’t get through your nasal passages it could go into your ears. And that could lead to an ear infection, which certainly won’t help you with your fighting a cold.
Steam is a great way to loosen congestion and relieve sinus pain and pressure, which is why it makes my list of natural cold busters. If you have a stuffy nose, head to the bathroom and hop in the shower to let the steam work its magic. If you don’t have the energy to stand for shower (been there!), let the water run and sit on the floor. You’ll know the steam is working when your nose starts to run.
If you have small children that are sick, try this trick with them as well. The water needs to be hotter than is safe to bring them into the shower, so sit on the floor with them while the shower runs and the steam does its thing. You may want to remove a layer or two of clothing while doing this to prevent overheating, but be sure to wrap them back up before leaving the bathroom so they don’t get cold.
To boost the congestion fighting powers of steam even more, you can make homemade shower melts using essential oils. Fragrances like peppermint or eucalyptus mix with the steam to open your nasal passages and get you breathing properly again.
I’ve also heard of people getting a bunch of sage to put in the shower when they’re sick. Again, the steam and smell of the sage helps to open nasal passages so you can breathe again.
When I was pregnant, I regularly slept with a cool mist humidifier running in my bedroom. I had a history of debilitating sinus headaches so I was nervous about not being able to take my regular sinus medications for fear of harming the baby. Between using the humidifier every night and using my neti pot twice a day, I was able to get through my entire pregnancy with barely a headache. And the ones I did have weren’t nearly as severe as to what I had previously.
Humidifiers work by keeping your nasal passages from drying out. It also loosens up mucus so you can blow your nose more easily and get that gunk out of your head. Humidifiers do require a modest upfront purchase, so they’re not the most frugal cold busters on my list, but I feel the cost is pretty modest for the benefits you get from it.
A humidifier is one of the few things you can do to help make babies and small kids more comfortable when they have colds. It will likely be one of your pediatrician’s first recommendations when you bring your little one in with the sniffles.
Vapor Rub (store bought or DIY)
I never used Vapor Rub growing up. But when one of my little guys was really stuffed up and couldn’t breathe I started searching for cold busters to help him feel better. We tried the baby version of Vapor Rub and it definitely helped. He slept better which meant we all slept better. And like I said before, sleep is one of the best cold busters possible.
Since that experience, Vapor Rub has become a regular part of my cold fighting regimen. I generally use the adult version, but the baby version helps too.
People have mixed feelings on Vapor Rub and the ingredients it contains. If you don’t want to use a store-bought version there are plenty of recipes to make it yourself. Just do a search on Pinterest or Google. Do what makes you comfortable and what works for your family.
Listen to mom and eat your chicken soup when you’re sick. I was prepared to write about the placebo effect but some studies have shown that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce your symptoms. The hot soup can loosen mucus and clear nasal passages. Plus, for many of us, it’s one of those comfort foods that emotionally help us feel better.
Sometimes, tackling a cold requires not only addressing the physical ailments, but also the emotional slump we often fall into. If chicken soup can accomplish all of that, then it’s definitely worthy of this list of natural cold busters.
Soothing Aches and Pains
Having all-over body aches is truly miserable when you’re sick. It’s bad enough that you can’t breathe and you’re coughing but nothing makes me feel worse than when everything hurts.
To naturally soothe aches and pains, I rely on a heating pad. I also will use a handheld electric back massager to work out specific aches and pains. Stretching can also help, as can a soak in the tub (which also produces steam to help with your congestion!). And as hard as it might be when all you want to do is be a lump on the couch, getting up and walking for a minute or two every hour will help stretch out your muscles, preventing the aches from getting even worse.
Like I said, there’s really nothing you can do to speed up the healing process of a cold. The virus has to run its course. That doesn’t mean you have to wallow in misery though. With these natural cold busters, you’ll at least be functional. And sometimes, that’s all we can ask for!
One last tip for increasing your comfort during a cold: have plenty of chapstick and moisturizers handy. Mouth-breathing due to congestion dries out lips, making them chapped and uncomfortable. I love Burt’s Bees peppermint lip balm. Not only does it soothe my lips, breathing in the peppermint helps to clear my stuffy nose.
And I don’t care how soft and puffy your tissues are. If you’re blowing your nose dozens of times a day, you’re nose is going to get red and sore. A dab of vaseline or your favorite moisturizer will keep your nose much happier.
If you or someone in your family is under the weather, follow these tips to start getting the upper hand on the cold. Feel better!
(Note: I’m not a doctor and do not have medical training. The above is not meant to serve as a diagnosis or treatment plan. This post simply outlines what has worked for me and my family. If you are sick and need medical advice, you should consult with your doctor.)