Five Easy Ways to Get Over a Cold

how to get over a cold 2016 Update: Check out our latest discussion on 6 Things to Have on Hand When You’re Sick at Work.

I’m sick right now (boooo), having caught my husband’s cold. We’ve talked a bit in the past about how to ward off colds, but I was thinking last night how much my colds in general really do seem to be milder and quicker than people around me. So here are a few of my simple tricks…

        1. Zicam. It’s been a rocky ride with this company, considering the FDA briefly pulled the original product (a gel for your nose that I used for 10 years before they pulled it!) because of health concerns — but I’ve kept using it religiously through the years in various forms, and I continue to believe in the product behind it. Right now I’m a fan of their “Rapid Melts” products, which don’t taste too horrible, albeit very chalky. I find that sometimes taking Zicam helps me entirely avoid a cold that other people around me get, and even if I do get the cold, I find that the duration of the cold is shorter and my symptoms are milder. (But that may just be me buying into the company’s marketing!)
        2. Water. Hot water, cold water, room temperature water. Broth. Tea. Get as much water as possible into your system. One of my favorite things to drink is what we now call “sick tea” with the boys — hot water with honey (to soothe your sore throat) and lemon (to cut the phlegm). Of course, avoiding diuretics like coffee and alcohol also helps. (Although when I’m sick I have no taste for either, usually.)
        3. Sleep. Yeah yeah yeah, sometimes you just can’t. But if you CAN: The way I’ve always looked at this is letting your brain shut off so your body can focus on repairing itself. It isn’t always easy to get GOOD sleep if you’re sick, so a few notes on that. First, be really wary of taking any OTC remedy that may affect your sleep patterns — I try to avoid all stuff, but if you don’t, do investigate how your cold drug of choice affects your REM sleep. Some of the worst colds I remember having were when I was pregnant, when you can’t take a lot of that stuff anyway, but things I HAVE used to help me with a stuffy nose include a humidifier or steam showers, as well as VapoRub / St. Olbas oil. Meanwhile, a wedge pillow can help with postnasal drip. If you need to work while sick, short naps will help you stay focused so you can get your work done in a timely manner and THEN go home and hit the hay. As one commenter noted in our previous post on working while sick,

          I try to leave work as fast as possible when I’m coming down with something. Typically, I leave work within 45 minutes of “oh no, I’m getting sick” and go home to crash on the couch. I take extensions and check email only as needed. I end up sleeping in 3-4 hour chunks throughout the day and check email between naps. I drink lots of hot water with honey and/or lemon and get take-out Pho.”


        4. Emergen-C can also help if you need a bit of an energy boost, plus it’s a great way to get more water into your system. In a pinch, orange juice can also help (I read years ago that the freshest OJ is the best for Vitamin C — for years I kept frozen OJ in my freezer in case I needed it. Here’s a Prevention article on the different Vitamin C content of old OJ.
        5. Vitamins. Readers in the past have noted that they swear by their vitamin regime as helping to ward off and cut the duration of colds. One reader noted:

          I take a multivitamin, fish oil, and iron supplement in the morning. At night I take another fish oil and a B complex vitamin. I haven’t had colds for years. This year I did have a cold. I’m convinced it was because I’ve used humidifiers in my living room and bedroom throughout the heating season.

          Another reader noted that she takes a regular zinc supplement:

          Not Zicam, not zinc cough drops — an over-the-counter vitamin-type zinc supplement. They are available in a range of doses in tablet form, usually 30mg or 50mg; according to the NIH, amounts of more than 40 mg per day aren’t recommended, so I try to stick with the lower-dose ones.

          I’ll admit I also take vitamins, although I haven’t noticed whether they have any effect on my cold — I take a multi and a fish oil every night, and Vitamin D in the morning.

Of course, it’s worth noting that washing your hands like a maniac with soap and water (or simple alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Purell) is a great technique for avoiding the cold — and of course, appreciated by everyone around you to stop the spread of a cold. I also try to sneeze into my elbow. (We’ve talked in the past about whether you should shake hands when you’re sick.)

Ladies, what are your thoughts on getting sick — how do you ward off colds, and bounce back from one more quickly? Have you tried or developed any other tricks or habits, such as gargling or Neti-Pot-ing

Pictured: Sick bed, originally uploaded to Flickr by various brennemans.

5 EASY WAYS to get over a cold sm


  1. I have a great cure for the cold. It is called ECHICHENEA. I took 6 tablet’s a day for 3 day’s and it was OVER! I got sick in the Catskill’s b/c it was cold and this woman waitress was snotting all over the food she served, and I KNOW that is how I got a cold in the first place. FOOEY!

    The OTHER thing I recomend is goeing to Whole FOODS and getting a HEALTHY SHOT — which has in it GINGER, the Indian Spice (which I forget what that is named — but NOT cummin), some kind of HOT sauce / pepper. It is about $4 but it makes you think you are eateing HOT spicey food from Asia. You then sweat like a pig (DOUBEL FOOEY!) but then get better. YAY!!!!

  2. Did your husband have a Man Cold?

    Related question to all you lawyers: Would killing someone for Man Cold be self defense? Asking for a friend.

    • Ha! My husband cracked up so much at that video that we now use it un-mockingly — if one of us is just feeling kinda icky, we’ll ask if the other can give us a “poor little bunny”!

    • That video is also very popular in our house. Whenever my husband gets the sniffles, we say “For God’s sakes, woman! He’s got a man cold!”

  3. Roth Raider :

    So I’m not sure if this is a post where we can’t do TJ … if so, please remove this and I’ll repost tomorrow.

    I live in an extremely high COL where 1 to 2-bedroom cottages or condo routinely start at $800K plus bidding war. I want to buy in 3 years, and I’ll be able to have $100K in cash from savings. That’s obviously not enough. My SO and I also have $90K in Roth IRAs from contributions, which we can take out without penalty. If we use our Roth IRA for a down payment, we’ll have $200K in retirement or 1x our salary in our early/mid 30s.

    I’ve always heard it’s dumb to raid your retirement, but I don’t see how we can buy in the area, which I want to do, without doing so.

    Thoughts? Especially from people who’ve done the same?

    • Anonymous :

      Yes, it’s incredibly dumb to raid your retirement because you want to buy instead of rent. You either: 1) move to a cheaper area or 2) postpone buying. The 3 year deadline is arbitrary and self-imposed and there’s no reason it can’t be extended. And frankly, if you’re buying an $800K+ property, I’m not sure how the mortgage payment is going to work if you’re unable to save up the down payment over the course of several years. If you can afford a $6K a month mortgage or whatever it will be, saving $100K in three years or so shouldn’t be that challenging. Plus if you’re buying not renting you will also have taxes, insurance and condo fees and maintenance expenses. The down payment is just the beginning of the money hemorrhage that is home ownership.

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t think it’s smart to raid an existing retirement fund, but since it sounds like you have plenty saved for retirement for your age, maybe you can direct more of your funds over the next three years to saving for the down payment. I’d put in anything necessary to get the full employer match, since otherwise you’re leaving money on the table, but beyond that maybe you can funnel your money into the down payment fund. I know this is not conventional advice, but my husband and I did not put much into retirement into our 20s (he funded his up to the extent of the employer match, I did not fund mine at all because I had no employer matching). As a result, we were able to put more than $300K down on a $500K home, and will be completely debt-free by 35, at which point we will start funding our retirement (and children’s college) very aggressively. We are happy with our decision to do this.

    • Yes, it’s crazy dumb to raid your retirement for this.

  4. Posted yesterday, but post spent forever in moderation. I’m re-posting today because it is still the top story and it just really bugs me. Ridiculous edits are to keep it out of moderation.

    Has anyone else been reading the “Pink Ghe++o” series on Above the Law? The stories are obviously disturbing, but I don’t see any real purpose in publishing them. If the goal is to shock, they may be effective, but I don’t see how they can help anything improve because they don’t actually suggest any improvements. Maybe they are raising awareness, but a minute reading the comments is just depressing.
    Also, one of the emails has an Ellen vibe to me (which is hopefully just because I spend too much time on here). I feel like it would be much more compelling if the series focused on the true everyday s3xism that the average man engages in without realizing it rather than on trying to find the most outlandish stories.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree, but shock value is ATL’s thing. Pretty much their only thing, really.

    • I think it’s helpful to raise awareness that these things are happening. If you don’t see it — as most men don’t — it’s easy to dismiss stories that you hear. By putting all these stories together, I think ATL is helping people to understand that this is a widespread problem, and it’s not just that one associate you heard rumors about.

  5. I’ve read that Quercetin fights the cold virus so I ordered some off Amazon and am trying it this winter. So far so good but it’s too early to tell yet!

    I also drink a ton of water, take multivitamins, and get plenty of sleep (b/c no kids lol)

  6. Cold-Eez (or any other zinc lozenge). Start taking them (as directed on the package) when you start feeling the cold come on and throughout the duration of your cold and it really kicks it out of your system much more quickly than if you hadn’t. I also like a nice bowl of pho with lots of sriracha and lime

  7. Netflix and chill.

    But really. Try not to work, get into bed, keep warm, drink lots of fluids.

    I don’t take any medicine unless I start feeling like the gunk is building a colony in my sinuses, at which point I start taking Sudafed (the real stuff) round the clock and limited sprays of Afrin – this was my doctor’s advice on preventing sinus infections, which I used to get every time I got a cold, and it has worked really well.

    • I wish everything in life worked as quickly and reliably as Afrin.

      • It’s scary how well it works! Of course the warnings on the box are ALSO scary, so I only use the spray for can’t-miss work situations. I’m glad it’s around when I need it, though!

  8. Scroogina :

    I take a high daily dose of Vitamin C, about 1000 mg, along with Zicam when I feel the sniffles or see my hubs has the sniffles. Sometimes, though, the cold is stronger, as it has been all this week. The scary part is, I’ve had enough health issues, a cold can get ugly fast with me. However, I’ve been lucky in avoiding colds for the past several years, but luck often reuns out, especially if you add life stress.

    I’m pretty sure I was vulnerable this week because I’d had some recent stress, the kind the keeps you awake or only lets you sleep for stress-riddled nightmares. I got run down. So try not to get run down. And take your vitamins and keep Zicam easy to grab.

  9. There is a magical traditional medicine you can buy in Japan called kakkon-to. It’s a blend of kudzu root, cinnamon, and sometimes acetominaphen. If I take it as soon as I feel a cold coming on, I recover in a day or two. Magic stuff.

  10. A simple way to avoid getting the common cold (which is actually a rhinovirus!) and the flu (the influenza virus): get your flu shot!! Most flu vaccines nowadays actually contain a blend of the 3 or 4 most common rhinovirus and influenza virus strains predicted for each season, so by getting the one vaccine you are protecting yourself (and everyone around you) from multiple nasties! I say this not only as a chronically-ill JD with no time to get sick, but also as someone with two degrees in medical science and immunology under her belt. GET YOUR FLU SHOTS LADIES! Most large chain drugstores, pharmacies, and all medical centres will administer them, often at discounted prices depending on the place. And for heaven’s sake, if you start sniffling and sneezing all over the place, don’t try and soldier on with your work–go home! You’ll only make everyone around you sick, spread it like wildfire, and make yourself miserable and take longer to recover. Spend a day or two (or a week) taking your sick days, and everyone in your office will thank you.

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