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Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours

Help Your Body Heal

Give in to sleep. When you have a cold, high levels of immune system chemicals called cytokines make you sleepier than usual. Don't fight it: Shorting your sleep for even one night blunts the body's immune response. If a cough is keeping you up, try Advil, Aleve, or another NSAID, says Dr. Gwaltney. These block prostaglandins, which experts suspect trigger the cough reflex.

Avoid intense workouts. They can make symptoms worse. But moderate activity like a 30- to 45-minute walk won't hurt — and, by boosting immune function, could help you fend off your next cold.

Eat lightly. Your immune system dials back appetite during a cold, presumably to conserve energy and body heat for the big fight against viral invaders. Just be sure to drink plenty of fluids — they help thin mucus.

Relax. In a study of 55 people experimentally exposed to a flu virus, those who reported more stress developed more severe symptoms and released more of the immune system chemicals that cause inflammation. The same happens with cold viruses, say the researchers.

At-home Rx: Sinus Trouble: The Saline Solutio

A daily saline rinse may reduce sinus symptoms by as much as 72 percent and even cut the number of infections for those with chronic sinus problems, researchers from England's Royal National Throat, Nose, and Ear Hospital concluded after reviewing a series of studies. This ancient remedy softens and removes crusty mucus, thins nasal secretions, and helps wash away viral particles, bacteria, and irritating immune system compounds. You can purchase a sinus-rinsing tool called a neti pot at a natural foods store, get a special attachment for electric water-jet irrigators (like Water Pik), use a squeeze-bottle sinus rinse (such as NeilMed rinse), or simply cup your hand to deliver the saline solution to your nose.

  • The recipe: Mix 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt, plus 1 pinch baking soda, with 8 ounces warm water.

  • Rinsing directions: Lean over the sink with your head down (some neti-pot instructions advise tilting your head to the side slightly). Gently squirt the saline into each nostril (or inhale, one nostril at a time, from your palm). Breathing through your mouth at the same time will help keep the solution from entering your mouth. (If it does get in, spit it out.) Gently blow your nose. Repeat until you've used the 8 ounces of salt water.


Originally published on December 9, 2008


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