Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours


WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Sari Harrar
Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo
Before your sniffles morph into a nasty sinus, chest, or ear infection, here's how to fight back


Mugs of tea, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a truckload of tissues won't get you through every case of the sniffles. Too often, the common cold turns into something more serious, zeroing in on your personal weak point to become a sinus infection, a sore throat, a nonstop cough, an attack of bronchitis, or an ear infection. And if you're prone to a particular complication — thanks, perhaps, to an anatomical quirk (such as sinus obstructions), an underlying medical problem (early asthma, for example), or a history of a particular illness (childhood ear infections) — your odds of getting sicker, faster, can skyrocket.

But complications aren't inevitable, new research shows. "With the right strategies, you can cut your risk significantly," says Gailen D. Marshall, Ph.D., M.D., director of the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

The trick: Act quickly. "The problem isn't the virus replicating in your respiratory tract. The congestion and thick, trapped mucus that lead to complications are caused by the immune system's response to the infection," says pioneering cold researcher Jack M. Gwaltney, M.D., professor emeritus in the department of internal medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "It all begins within 10 to 12 hours after infection starts. You should take action the minute you feel the first symptoms of a cold — the scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing."

Find out what to do if you are prone to...

  • Sinus Infections
  • Acute Bronchitis
  • Ear Infections

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
blowing nose
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear
Article
 
woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Video
 
How To Calm Your Cough
Quiz
Sore Throat
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections