It’s an awful feeling; that slow looming realisation that you are probably coming down with something. Some people bravely (foolishly) press on, while others completely capitulate to the slow marching sickness. Neither one of these is particularly effective, but your actions in the immediate can make a pretty significant difference. Your next seven days can either be a snotty phlegmy hell, or a bit of an inconvenience. Let’s aim for the latter, shall we? Here is how to get on top of the common cold early.
Before we get stuck in, it is important to understand what we are dealing with. The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). It is a common misconception that if a cold gets bad enough it becomes the flu, when in fact, they are entirely different infections. And it is worth pointing out that the common cold can be uncommonly painful and unpleasant. Most of the sickness you are feeling is actually your body’s immune system waging war on the invading virus. Imagine your body is your street, and a foreign nation has begun invading. In your defence of your turf, there is bound to be some damage to property. It is the same principle here. If we are organised, and rally our troops (in this case, our white blood cells), we can halt the invaders earlier and with less damage.
Keep up the Fluids
You may not realise how much fluid you lose when coughing, sneezing or having a runny nose. Many people actually prolong their illness by adding dehydration into the mix. It also helps you to loosen the mucus in your sinuses. If you can throw some warm beverages into the mix, so much the better. The steam will help relieve your symptoms as well. Hot liquids will start to soothe your throat at the same time. The steam you breathe in will also help open up your airways, as it has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Make sure you avoid coffee and alcohol however. These will only dehydrate you further.
This one still surprises people. It has all the hallmarks of an old wives tale (“If you sit too close to the television your eyes will go square”). Yet the research actually supports the idea that chicken soup helps you feel better. Firstly, it is a warm broth, so you get all the benefits of fluid intake. The various herbs and spices you add also contribute. When you’re unwell, you lose some sensation of taste which robs some of the joy of eating. But you need to eat to keep your strength as your body wages war on the virus. When the soup is especially flavoursome and it can get past the loss of sensation, you are far more likely to keep eating. And the carbohydrates in the noodles will keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. Interestingly, this same effect is not found in minestrone or any other kind of soup. As it turns out, Chicken is high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which floods your system with serotonin. This elevates your mood which can make all the difference in the depths of a sickness.
Get Plenty of Rest
You may not realise it, but it takes quite a toll on your body to fight off a virus. Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, so if you expend a lot of energy some of your body’s efforts and resources are diverted away from the virus and toward unnecessary things. Let’s go back to the invasion example. Imagine that the invading force is advancing up the street towards you, but half of your soldiers are involved in a barbeque. You would be giving the enemy an unnecessary advantage. This also applies to sleep. When you are asleep, your brain uses the opportunity to develop key proteins which supercharge your white blood cells in the fight against the virus. You should be aiming for a solid 8-9 hours of sleep if you can get it.
Clear your Sinuses.
But what is the number one thief of sleep when you are unwell? Blocked sinuses. It is hard to get to sleep when you can’t breathe properly. You can pick up something like Otrivin nasal spray to help reduce the congestion in your nasal passages. The active ingredient in Otrivin nasal spray is called xylometazoline, and it acts on the blood vessels that line your nose. By reducing inflammation, it opens everything back up, allowing you to breathe more easily. The nice thing about Otrivin nasal spray is that it gets directly to the problem rather than a pill which needs to be digested and directed. When you’re lying in bed, you’ll want something fast acting. Typically, you will begin noticing relief within about five to ten minutes, while a pill might take upwards of half an hour. Otrivin nasal spray will give you about ten to twelve hours of comfort, so you can rest easy.
Yes, nasal sprays are great, but you can actually use them in conjunction with anti-inflammatories. Your two best bets are Ibuprofen and Paracetamol (which can also be taken in conjunction with each other. Happy day!). Paracetamol works on the pain receptors in the brain so that whatever pain signals are coming in become dulled. It isn’t making you better per se but you will feel better, and that is good enough for most people. Ibuprofen works slightly differently, but travelling directly to the source of inflammation and shrinking the blood vessels so that it doesn’t swell and hurt so much. Taken together, they are a powerful medicinal team! As always, make sure you take only as directed on the packet, and consult your GP if you have any questions.
Hopefully, you now see the merit and worth in acting quickly on a cold, and you also feel empowered to take these steps yourself. May it be swift and relatively painless.