13 Ways to Beat a Cold

Don’t let a cold just “run its course.” Give that virus a run for its money.

Woman with flu resting in bed
By SHARE

Lubricate a chapped nose. "We've all been there," Schaffner says. "You have a runny nose; it's cold outside, and the openings of your nostrils get chapped and uncomfortable." How's this for an affordable, old-fashioned solution: Shaffner suggests rubbing a dab of petroleum jelly to the chapped areas for instant relief.

Get some rest. "Often with a cold, you'll feel a bit more fatigued. Give into it," Schaffner says. Now's the time to go to bed earlier and take it easy.

Continue exercising if you're up for it. This advice is a bit tricky. If you're capable of some exercise, go for it. "Don't train for the Olympics in the middle of having a cold," Schaffner says. "But gentle exercise? Yes, it actually helps. You'll feel better having done it." Bennett points out that if you're one to max out at the gym every day, you may want to cut back on your routine. Don't lift as much weight; don't run quite as fast; and maybe sub a yoga class in for your CrossFit workout.

Just be sure to cover your sneeze at the gym and sanitize your treadmill handle. Which brings us to …

Practice proper cold and flu hygiene. Don't spread your sickness to others, and don't pick up another person's flu virus on top of your cold. Cover your coughs and sneezes, sanitize germy spots and perfect your hand-washing techniques. Here's everything you need to know about flu etiquette to get you started.

Don't take an antibiotic. Remember, the common cold is caused by a virus, and antibiotics treat bacterial infections. "Do not go to your doctor or health care provider and ask for an antibiotic," Schaffner says. "Even if you have grossly green discharge from your nose and such, an antibiotic will not help."

Don't spend your money on high-dosage vitamin C, echinacea or zinc. Schaffner and Bennett are not impressed with these products that claim to help cold sufferers and say the research is not compelling. Schaffner says one of his colleagues puts it like this: "If you take all that stuff, you're making expensive urine." Stick to the tea and over-the-counter symptom relief, Bennett says. "I typically don't recommend people spend their money on that kind of stuff," she says. "I'd rather they stocked up on the nasal saline and a humidifier – and work on cold prevention."

[Read: Pharmacists' Top Recommended Health Products.]