What do you do when you first start to feel a cold or other sickness?
August 27, 2008 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What do you do when you first start to feel a cold or other sickness? Are there any remedies that work best at the first sign of a cold

About 2 hours ago, I barely started to feel a tickle in my throat. (uh oh). This usually indicates a cold that is being fought by my body. Is there anything I can do now that will help prevent this cold from making me sick? What do you do when you first notice a cold?
posted by ShootTheMoon to Health & Fitness (62 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I eat a few cloves of fresh garlic and drink orange juice, get some good sleep, and then it usually goes away.
posted by Penelope at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2008

3 hot-toddies and 10 hours of sleep usually nip it in the bud for me.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I personally drink an Emergen-C or similar just as a precaution (it may work, it may not) and get as much rest as possible. In my experience, sleep is definitely the key element in either preventing an oncoming cold or hastening the departure of one that has already arrived.
posted by tigerbelly at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2008

I gargle w/ salt water, then lay in a very hot bath sipping a glass of Emergen-C.

It probably doesn't do anything beyond giving me the feeling I'm doing something.
posted by jamaro at 1:39 PM on August 27, 2008

After a paritcularly nasty bout, I've taken to inundating myself with Vitamin C drops and other commercially available "This will shorten teh cold or prevent teh cold!11!" lozenges... It seems to have worked, but it could alternatively be luck... I definitely would try some of these as they're easy to pick up on the way home at the pharmacy, but you may want to take deeper advice should it arise to cover your bases.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:40 PM on August 27, 2008

Sipping extremely hot liquid, usually tea. Don't know if it is a placebo effect, but the cold seems to go away more quickly. If it is a placebo effect, it works for me!
posted by timmow at 1:40 PM on August 27, 2008

I, too, take some Emergen-C, and that seems to do the trick.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:42 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

A guy I know swears by zinc lozenges. They seem to work so well for him, I got a little tired of hearing about them. He doesn't get sick very often, I'll give him that.
posted by marxchivist at 1:47 PM on August 27, 2008

posted by suelange at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

ginger, paprika, garlic, OJ, multivitamins, cod liver oil supplements.

in that order.
posted by Menomena at 1:49 PM on August 27, 2008

"3 hot-toddies and 10 hours of sleep usually nip it in the bud for me."

This is actually my favorite remedy although I have done it in the past this way:

shot of whiskey
hot shower
naked to bed for as long as you can sleep
posted by suelange at 1:50 PM on August 27, 2008

The Light Fantastic and I apparently have the same remedy. Mine was passed down from my Nana. Three hot toddies a night until you get better. More effective than Nyquil and tastes a whole helluva lot better.

Something about making your bloodstream totally toxic to foreign organisms..... I forget.
posted by elendil71 at 1:52 PM on August 27, 2008

Mega-dose of Vitamin C. Cut back on the drinking. Lots of sleep.

Hot tea with honey and lemon is a traditional family cold cure, too.
posted by muddgirl at 1:53 PM on August 27, 2008

Drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:54 PM on August 27, 2008

consume vast quantities of-
vitamin c
also consider-
raw garlic
posted by brevator at 1:54 PM on August 27, 2008

Cold FX. Miraculous.
posted by meerkatty at 1:55 PM on August 27, 2008

I have a big bowl of Chinese hot-and-sour soup or Thai lemongrass chicken soup, drink lots of plain water, take a hot bath or shower, and hit the sack for as much sleep as I can manage (at least 10 hours, 12 works even better).

If I do these things when I feel the very first twinges of a cold, it usually nips it in the bud.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:55 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I sleep for as long as I am tired, and that usually does the trick.
posted by Nattie at 1:57 PM on August 27, 2008

ColdFX is popular here in Canada, and is now available in most locations in the US. I'm not a big believer in herbal remedies (the active component of the capsules is a ginseng extract), or indeed most drugs, but it really seems to work for me. Nine or so capsules taken throughout the day of the first sign of symptoms, as you're showing now (and as I was yesterday) seems to knock colds on the head.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:59 PM on August 27, 2008

Vitamin C and if I feel chilled I make garlic-and-cayenne soup, hot as I can stand it (in both senses.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:00 PM on August 27, 2008

Vit C in the form of real fruit, and lots of hot water and maybe hot tea kicks mine away if I do it quick enough.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2008

None of those folk remedies have ever been proven to do anything to shorten or stop a viral infection. None of them have ever been proven to prevent a viral infection.

What the noodly guy said. Until a peer-reviewed study finds something effective against the common cold, don't waste your time and money seeking out worthless cures. The best way to get over a cold is to prepare adequately for your recovery: eat well, sleep well, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2008

Zicam works for me. I usually just get it at the grocery store.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:15 PM on August 27, 2008

Here's a similar question I asked a few years back. And now I even have health insurance!
posted by nitsuj at 2:20 PM on August 27, 2008

Until a peer-reviewed study finds something effective against the common cold, don't waste your time and money seeking out worthless cures.

Actually, there have been multiple peer-reviewed clinical trials that show that zinc lozenges are effective. There have also been multiple trials that do not show that they are effective. Reviews, and the recommendations of medical associations, tend to say that their efficacy has not been proven. But it does meet the criterion of at least one peer-reviewed clinical trial concluding that they are effective, which many of the other "remedies" do not.
posted by grouse at 2:21 PM on August 27, 2008

Zicam (the mouth spray). Follow the directions to a "T' and your cold will never get worse.

This bears repeating: you must follow the directions or it will not kill off your cold.

And do it early. It doesn't work if the cold is already full-blown.

It is astounding how well that stuff works.
posted by Zambrano at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2008

Here's an exhaustive and easy-to-read review of common cold treatments and the accompanying evidence for each in American Family Physician from 2007. This is if you want scientific evidence rather than a poll.

Also: beware of intranasal zinc, such as Zicam, which is clinically proven to cause permanent loss of the sense of smell in some patients. Zicam paid $12 million to settle claims of sense of smell damage or loss.
posted by grouse at 2:28 PM on August 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

I shoot mass quantities of saline nose spray up into my sinuses. This seems to lessen the severity, and keeps my sinuses and nasal passages moist and unblocked.
posted by Danf at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2008

Yep, Zicam. Great stuff.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2008

There is a Japanese remedy called "tamagozake" that I have found works well. You heat up some sake till it is almost boiling, then break a raw egg into it, and drink it all up. Then go to bed under lots and lots of covers, maybe taking a hot bath first. The idea is to raise your body temperature as high as you can and sweat out the germs.

But more generally what I have found works is just to get lots of rest when you START to feel ill. Don't soldier through and then rest only when you are exhausted and dizzy. The illness will last longer and be more severe.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:39 PM on August 27, 2008

I like to sit in the steam room at my gym for some time. I've had great success fighting off most colds this way. And plenty of OJ also.
posted by cazoo at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2008

Eat healthy. Vitamin C. Sleep extra.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 2:41 PM on August 27, 2008

Hot vegetable soup (I try to make homemade borscht, but hot&sour from the local Vietnamese place otherwise), ginger tea, vitamin C. I also avoid all dairy for the duration, and use a humidifier.

None of those folk remedies have ever been proven to do anything to shorten or stop a viral infection.

Vitamin C has- look in grouse's link.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2008

I think it is also worth pointing out that Airborne is a big sham, although it may have psychological effects, but that is another issue altogether.
posted by clearly at 2:51 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I usually take 1 gram worth of Vitamin C pills (something like 1600% daily value) and drink a quart or two of orange juice the first day I notice it. Get lots of sleep, and continue at .5-1 grams of vitamin C pills for a couple of weeks thereafter.
posted by Precision at 2:51 PM on August 27, 2008

Call work and tell them I won't be in for a few days.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2008

Ooh, I forgot about the avoiding-dairy - I do that whenever I start to get stopped up (from a cold or allergies or whatever) and it makes a substantial difference. My body is not overfond of dairy to begin with, though.

(And yeah, maybe these things don't do any good, but psychologically I am much happier when I have a list of things to do that make me feel more in control, and a packet of emergen-c and a bowl of hot soup isn't too expensive for the peace of mind.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:59 PM on August 27, 2008

On the scientific side of things, Vitamin C apparently does not help much. The only thing that could be shown to have a measureable effect is zinc.
What personally helps me a lot to a avoid the throat infections I (used to) get twice a year is to drink often, to keep the throat from drying out. Getting away from really dry air is also important.
posted by Lynx at 3:04 PM on August 27, 2008

I drink a TON of hot water, sleep lots and eat healthy.
And make sure I don't forget to take my vitamins.

That's 99% of the time enough to nip it in the bud for me.
posted by cheemee at 3:06 PM on August 27, 2008

Even my strictly fundamental Christian family members kept some booze in the cupboard for the hot toddie.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:13 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Many people, not all of them crazy, recommend pouring hydrogen peroxide into your ears for a minute. It seems harmless enough and I do it, who knows if it helps. A neti pot helps keep a cold at bay too.
posted by InkaLomax at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2008

Granny Clampett's cold remedy--which is quite similar to her moonshine--always works: "a cup every morning, and in a week or 10 days you'll be good as new."
posted by neuron at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2008

Can't believe only one other person mentioned highly spicy foods. When I feel a cold coming, I become best friends with my local Thai food place and order only things with 2 and 3 chilies beside it on the menu (meaning hot-hot-hot). The kind of food that makes you sweat to eat it. I eat nothing but that for a day or two with LOTS of liquids. Some times, I manage not to get a full blown cold, other times it at least puts it off a day or three while I get an important project crunched. I know that sounds crazy, but I've been doing it for years and swear, it's all true. :)
posted by twiki at 3:37 PM on August 27, 2008

I eat as many Cheerios as I can in one sitting, while avoiding any that are not a perfect O-shape. This usually is effective, as I have not had a full-blown cold in many months.
posted by found missing at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

My understanding is if you have plenty of fluids and bed rest, a cold will usually last 7 days. Otherwise, about a week.

For me, some days I think I'm getting a cold because someone in my family has had one, or everyone in town, and I look forward to getting down to the serious business of watching old movies and having chicken soup, and so I do nothing, and damn if it doesn't go away. Probably because I don't smoke or drink and get plenty of natural vitamins in my diet which includes lots of tomatoes and garlic and, of course, I wash my hands regularly.
posted by b33j at 4:03 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey! I'm sick too! I'm on the tail end though.

I thought I had the flu because I got dizziness and chills, then a low-grade fever and was totally congested in the space of a few hours on Sunday night, but it's just a really bad cold. The thing is, your immune system's on the job. Don't worry.
  1. Stay hydrated with fluids, like water and real juice and the brothy, spicy soups. No coffee. No dairy.
  2. Get your box of tissues ready. And some Vitamin E oil for your inevitably sore and crusty nose.
  3. If necessary, put your head about 8-12 inches over a steaming pot of water with a bit of tea tree or eucalyptus oil in it and tent it with a towel. That will bring some relief from congestion.
  4. Put in your Mr. Show / Monty Python / Electric Company DVDs.
  5. Rest.
Your body needs rest and time to fix you up. Work with your body. It's fighting their bodies what gets people in trouble.
posted by droplet at 4:23 PM on August 27, 2008

Up intake of: garlic, ginger, chilli.
Cut out: beer, coffee.

...and yeah, what twiki said.
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 PM on August 27, 2008

Right away: zinc lozenges.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:49 PM on August 27, 2008

Your past this stage now, but here's some good advice anyway. Following on what B33J says.

Do not put your hands/fingers in/near your eyes, nose, or mouth. These are mucous membranes and they do a pretty good job of keeping stuff (germs) out, but if you overload them they fail.

Drink enough water every day. Figure out what really is enough liquid intake for you. Track how much you drink for a few days. Then spend a few more days consciously trying to drink more, and track that.

Wash hands often. Shake hands less. Don't touch restroom door fixtures or anyplace with your hands that you know has seen lots of other hands. Wash your hands again, because if you're human you're probably going to find yourself having a tough time with the habits of rubbing your eyes or picking your nose. Most people don't even realize they do it. Putting a clean(er) finger in your eye is slightly less bad than a filthy one.

Have another glass of water.

Eat your fruits and veggies. Eat a little less sodium.

Move. Take a regular daily walk, or hit the gym, or go for a swim. Have a private dance party in your living room for 20 minutes, just get moving.

Get enough sleep.

Try a meditative practice/relaxing activity.

Then go wash your hands again.
posted by bilabial at 5:52 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

As far as placebos, get yourself some soup, tea and a screwdriver (full of Vitamin C!) or whiskey (that'll clear your sinuses right out!).

As far as things that I think may actually work, I religiously take Quantum's Cold & Flu Formula. I take the recommended dose when I feel the first sniffles coming on, then double the dose if I make it to being actively ill. It tastes like hot garbage mixed with mouthwash and it works better than any conventional medication that I've ever taken.

Obviously, I'm no doctor. Doubling doses, even of herbal tinctures, can be dangerous for many, etc.
posted by cheerwine at 6:07 PM on August 27, 2008

At the first hint of a sore throat, a 30mg zinc supplement tab (don't like candy lozenges) and a 1000mg vit. C. And go to sleep if I can possibly arrange it.
posted by jfuller at 7:20 PM on August 27, 2008

My stepfather's hot toddy recipe:

one shot of a good whiskey, Irish, Scotch, bourbon, whatever
one shot of lemon juice
one shot of honey
warm in microwave oven until not too hot to drink
mix well with a spoon
drink, enjoy, and get right to bed!

posted by The corpse in the library at 7:36 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you sure it is not an allergy? Weeds are really starting to cause some folks problems. If that is the case then I would lean towards some Astelin or Flonase. You can check the pollen counts in your area here...

Pollen Counts

Also, use a calendar program to remind you to check your symptoms a year from now to see if you are experiencing the same symptoms thus figuring out for yourself what might be going on.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:44 PM on August 27, 2008

I had good luck warding off a few colds last winter by taking tons of vitamin C and drinking absolutley as much water as I could comfortably take in. 6-8 liters a day or so.
posted by PhatLobley at 9:08 PM on August 27, 2008

For me when a cold or flu is coming on I feel it in my lower back. I'll massage it a bit (or get someone else to do it) and that's usually enough to completely fight it off or keep it at bay until I get some vitamin C, tylenol (my personal cure-all), and rest.
posted by simplethings at 9:10 PM on August 27, 2008

I find that Zinc really helps. The Cold-Eez lozenges are pretty gross tasting, I prefer the Runny Rhino lollypops.
posted by radioamy at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2008

I take a Claritin.

I eat a big helping of the spiciest curried food I can stand. (hoorah for chicken vindaloo!)

I go to the gym and work out as hard as possible.

I sleep for ten hours.

That seems to clear me out, even if it's gotten bad.
posted by winna at 12:19 AM on August 28, 2008

I usually take 1/2 a zinc tablet (25mg). Most are 50mg and that's the max I think you're suppose to have in a day. I'm always a bit worried about taking a whole tablet since you get zinc from the food you eat but if it's a really nasty cold, I sometimes will take a 2nd half of a pill. This is my "sleep through the night without sneezing all the time" strategy.
Hot soup and sanitizing the phones and remote with lysol wipes to prevent reinfection while trying not to think nasty thoughts about the person who brought the cold cooties into the house are also good.
posted by stray thoughts at 1:20 AM on August 28, 2008

Preemptive strike: I take a sick day, and then spend said day napping, watching TV, and drinking lots of OJ. I also like a big bowl of Tom Ka Gai (Thai coconut-ginger) soup for the hot & spicy liquids.

It seems to work for me; one day out early on seems to prevent having several days in a row of sick time. In almost 2 years, I've gotten sick twice, and both times I was under extraordinary stress that I couldn't really escape. The second time was honest-to-god flu, too.

I get so peeved at people who insist on coming in sick when they really could be taking the sick time that they give us FOR A REASON.
posted by epersonae at 9:41 AM on August 28, 2008

The best thing to prevent a cold is whatever you get the best placebo effect off of. The placebo effect is clinically proven to be so effective that it´s the standard everything else is measured by.

What works best for me is emergen-c and thai soup from a specific restaurant. Works every time. Guaranteed.
posted by yohko at 3:57 PM on August 28, 2008

Yin chiao has worked very well for me. Sore throat starts to manifest, a day of yin chiao and I am feeling fine. If I don't take it the next day, symptoms may resurface the day after that.
posted by pointilist at 10:10 PM on August 28, 2008

Loosen crap up with steam (hot showers, hot tea, spicy food--thai chicken soup) and staying hydrated, then blowing my nose like it's going out of style. I firmly believe in shedding as much of the stuff in my mucus as possible when I feel a cold coming on. I also take some Emergen-C or other B vitamin supplement and oranges. Get enough sleep, abstain from smoking and drinking. Change my toothbrush, change bedsheets, sanitize doorknows/keyboards/etc and wash my hands. But I think the key is getting as much snot out as possible when I can feel the cold coming on.
posted by ifjuly at 5:33 PM on October 13, 2008

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