Are You Making Your Cold Worse?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on October 31, 2021
2 min read

You feel crummy as it is. All that sneezing and coughing is misery enough.

Don't make one of these common mistakes that can make your cold even worse.

It never works. You can't ignore a cold. When you get sick, you have to take care of yourself.

Your body needs extra energy when it fights an infection. If you try to push through a cold, especially if you have a fever, you'll exhaust yourself. That could make your symptoms worse.

Getting enough shut-eye is key for a healthy immune system, your body's defense against germs.

One study shows that sleeping less than 7 hours a night almost triples your risk of catching a cold in the first place.

If you have a cold and your symptoms are keeping you up at night, go to bed earlier or take naps during the day. You need extra rest, however you get it.

It can make you more likely to get a cold.

Over time, high levels of stress hormones can stop your immune system from working normally. The result: more sick days.

You need a lot of fluids when you're sick. They help thin your mucus, which makes your sinuses drain better.

Just about any liquid will help. Water, juice, hot tea, and soup are all good. Even milk is OK, despite what you may have heard. The idea that it causes mucus buildup is a myth.

Too much of it leaves you dehydrated and makes symptoms like congestion worse.

Alcohol puts a damper on your immune system. And it might mix badly with cold medications you're taking. So until you feel better, it's best to lay off the booze.

They may work well at first. But if you use them for more than 3 days, your stuffy nose will get worse when you stop.

Smoking is bad for your lungs, even when you are not sick. Still, smokers get more colds than non-smokers. Their symptoms are also worse and they last longer.

Lighting up damages cells in your lungs, which makes it harder for you to fight off a cold. If you're sick, don't smoke -- and don't let anyone around you do it either.

Show Sources


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "True or False: Being Exposed to Wet Cold Weather Increases the Risk of Infection."

Carnegie Mellon University: "How Stress Influences Disease."

Cohen, S.  Archives of Internal Medicine; Jan. 12, 2009. "Colds and the Flu: Treatment."

Harvard Medical School: "Sleep and Health."

Murin, S. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, October 2005.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol and the Immune System" and "Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Federal Occupational Health: Let's Talk: Stress Can Make Your Body Say Uncle."

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