How to get rid of a cold? We'll break the bad news first: there's nothing you can do, really, to get rid of the common cold. Colds are caused by viruses, most commonly rhinoviruses, and generally take about a week to pass. The good news is that there are tried and tested remedies for alleviating the unpleasant symptoms of a cold, including stuffy noses and sore throats.
As a general rule, cold symptoms do not include a fever: if you have a body temperature of over 38ºC, you've likely got the flu or another virus and will need to contact a doctor or phone 111, especially if you're worried that it's Coronavirus.
Unlike complications from flu, the common cold does not require any prescription medication and should never be treated with antibiotics. Try the simple remedies below instead.
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1. Drink plenty of hot liquids
Yes, drinking hot liquids really does help a cold by clearing congestion and keeping you hydrated (which, in turn, allows your body to fight the cold better). Try adding a wedge of lemon and a teaspoon of honey to your tea for even better results: both are antibacterial, and honey has been shown to have some antiviral benefits. Just make sure your tea isn't too hot when you add the honey, or you'll 'kill' all the benefits.
Do avoid alcohol while unwell – it may make you drowsy, but it also will interfere with your sleep and metabolism, neither of which is a great idea while recovering from a cold.
2. Get plenty of rest and sleep
Think of it this way: your body has a finite resource of energy, and it needs to put all of that energy into fighting the cold, rather than walking, working, and so on. Get plenty of rest and sleep: if you can't sleep because of coughing, take an over-the-counter cough suppressant at night time.
Find out how to sleep well in our guide.
3. Take a warm bath
Unlike flu, where a fever is already present, a cold may benefit from you raising your body temperature, which will help it fight off the virus better. Avoid a bath that's uncomfortably hot, and stay in for no longer than 20 minutes. Then, wrap up warm in a fluffy bathrobe or your pjs and blankets, and try to break a sweat. The whole process will help you get over the cold faster.
4. Try a natural decongestant
If your nose is stuffy and you're having to breathe through your mouth, you have two options: eucalyptus oil or a sea salt nasal spray. Both are effective and safe decongestants (unless you're allergic to eucalyptus). To use eucalyptus oil as a decongestant, add five to 10 drops to a pan of steaming hot water; cover your head with a towel and breathe in the steam. Saline sprays are applied topically and can be bought in pharmacies.
5. Eat well
You've probably heard some variation of 'feed a fever, starve a cold': it's all untrue. Whatever illness you body is fighting off, it needs fuel to do its job effectively. So, eat as normal and allow yourself whatever treats you may normally avoid. If you want a slice of cake, have a slice of cake. Whatever is appetising right now, just go for it. If that means a takeaway, have a takeaway.
- Some people also swear by apple cider vinegar as a cold remedy – read more about apple cider vinegar in our guide to its benefits