It happens every year. The weather changes and boom- a horrible cold spreads through every office, daycare center, and household. Luckily we have the 411 on what you can do both preventatively and which common remedies actually do what you would hope they would do.
Biology of a Cold:
The common cold is a type of “rhinovirus.” There are over a couple hundred types of known strains- So the one you get each year is probably different from the one before. The span of a cold typically lasts about 7-10 days. Despite the hope and belief that certain medicines and remedies are stopping the cold virus in its tracks, the truth is your body is relentlessly working to rid itself of the virus, and it is probably your body that is effectively fighting the infection not any magic pill. We’ll tell you the best ways to promote health and take care of yourself in the event that you do catch a nasty cold.
Prevention is the Best Medicine:
- Limit your spread of the virus if you have it, and if someone else has it, limit contact with them and the surfaces they touch. It’s why I barricaded myself away from my boyfriend when he came down with a nasty cold a few weeks ago. Sorry boo.
- DON’T BE THAT PERSON WHO SNEEZES AND COUGHS IN THE DIRECTION OF EVERYONE ELSE. Or on the coffee maker, or the water bubbler, the fridge, on the door handles, etc. Unless the person coughed or sneezed right on you (shame on them), these surfaces are probably where you are picking up the germs. Cue your mother’s advice of washing your hands often. And for the love of goodness, if you need to cough- use your elbow, or be prepared for dirty looks from everyone in the room, including me. Forget the hand sanitizer, because it turns out the results are dismal on the efficacy of those too. Sigh, I know.
- Stop touching your face. Not only is this bad for your skin and hair because of the transfer of oils and dirt from your hands, but you could be accidentally transferring germs to those sensitive areas by doing this. It’s a hard habit to break, but just tell yourself “No!” anytime you get the urge.
- Decrease stress in your life. Due to the difficulty of studying the effects of stress on biological changes in immune function, there is currently no direct link between stress and immune function, however there are reasonable guesses about a possible link. We can infer from other studies that stress may be a possible factor in the ability to ward off sickness. Read this for de-stressing tactics.
- Daily exercise is one of the best preventative actions a person can do to increase their overall health and wellness. There is not yet a direct link to exercise and immune function. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones, and are especially needed on a day you’re feeling down in the dumps. Nothing that a little downward dog meditation can’t fix!
- Speaking of downward dog, have SEX often! This may be the last thing you’re thinking about in on the worst day of your cold, but when you feel like you are on the upswing, do yourself a favor: grab a partner or have a solo session. Studies show that having sex has many health benefits such as lowering stress, improving sleep quality, relieving minor pains, and increasing production of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) which helps the body’s defenses against minor germs. The benefits appear to be due to the body’s release of hormones like endorphins, estrogen, and testosterone, similar to those produced when exercising! Of course, be safe and use protection, at all costs.
- Speaking of the D, There is something to be said for making sure you have adequate Vitamin D Appropriate levels should be contained in your go-to daily multivitamin. Just make sure not to go overboard with it!
- Eat a vitamin, nutrient-rich diet every day! A combination of daily vitamins and nutrients are a great way to ensure your body is able to support its functioning day to day. Livings off coffee and bagels will only get you so far before you’re on bed-rest for a week, believe me! Look up “Mediterranean diet” for starter ideas.
These cold-curing myths are just that-myths.
- Homeopathic options like Echinacea or Aloe Vera are tricky to discuss because there is not strong enough research backing. One should be skeptical for any company claiming that a single product or ingredient can affect the whole body’s functioning. Remember, the immune system is the result of a large number of wellness factors and cannot be “boosted” by any one thing. Any improvement in symptoms may be psychological or coincidental with the body’s quick ability to heal itself. Those remedies on pinterest look so enticing! Not so much.
- Vitamin C remedies have shown weak evidence supporting a shorter, less intense cold in adults. Despite incredibly effective orange juice commercials, this common myth is kind of busted. Take a daily multivitamin, and make healthy lifestyle choices in the hope of boosting your immune system instead.
- Probiotics seem helpful for some at treating bowel and digestive symptoms, but the jury is still out on the link between “good bacteria” on fighting bad bacteria contracted from a cold. Furthermore, there is a varied quality of probiotic products on the market. Taking a small amount each day through a pill or in yogurt will most likely not hurt you, but we’re holding our breath before validating the widespread health claims for this type of supplement.
- Lastly, an apple a day is certainly a fantastic source of fiber and vitamins, but it doesn’t do much for our ability to fend off a cold. Sorry!
When It’s Too Late:
These remedies will not shorten your cold, but will make living through it a lot easier.
- A favorite go-to of mine is hot, homemade soup. Though there is not overwhelming evidential support, I would say most people (even doctors) agree that soup is a comfortable, soothing option to “open the airways.” Truth is, it loosens the mucus pockets in the nasal cavity, typically making it easier to breathe. Try this “winter soup” recipe here.
- Sleep it off. The body is working harder than ever when it’s assaulted by a virus, so use it as an excuse to get some extra shut-eye. Try investing in a plush sleep mask and ear plugs. They are worth every penny.
- Saline sprays & nasal washes also appear to be beneficial for treating the annoying symptom of a clogged the nasal cavity, but show no improvement for shortening the lifespan of the cold itself. These are great for a better ability to breathe. Yay!
- To ease a nasty cough, try a spoonful of sugar honey. This beautiful golden sweetness has been shown to effectively lessen cough symptoms not to mention makes tea taste delightful.
- Treat yourself! What is one of your favorite comforts? A hot cup of tea? A juicy book? A funny, new movie? A soothing face mask? We recommend investing in a little tube of RapidLash® to brighten anyone’s cold season. It works silently overnight, so you won’t even have to think about the benefits this lash-enhancing serum is doing to make your lashes look long-looking, gorgeous and full! I may feel like as sick as a dog, but heck, my lashes look great, and that makes me feel good any day of the week.
If anything else, do something for yourself you know will improve your overall mood. Sometimes we all need an excuse to slow down and take care of ourselves.
Wishing you happiness & health, beauties!
Catherine C., Lashing Out