As cold and flu season approaches, being proactive about staying healthy takes on even greater importance. Tried-and-true practices like frequent handwashing and getting enough rest are the best ways to keep colds at bay, and you can further improve your chances by upping your intake of fruits and vegetables. If you do get a cold, the recommendations and remedies below may reduce your symptoms and help you feel better faster. Always check with your doctor before trying any new health regimen or natural remedy.
Drink Up! Hydration is A Good Defense Against Colds
Try to drink the recommended 64 ounces of fluid each day, with most of your fluid intake coming from plain water. Electrolyte drinks are great for replenishing fluids if you’ve been ill or particularly active, but nothing beats water for staying hydrated. Note: If you suffer from congestive heart failure or tend to retain water, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions around fluid intake.
From C to Z – Vitamins and Minerals for Natural Cold Care
While not proven to prevent colds or their symptoms, Vitamin C may boost your immune system, helping you to stay well in the first place. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and not produced by the body. Supplements are a great way to make sure you’re getting enough, but if you’re not sure how much to take, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a recommendation.
Here are some of the top sources of Vitamin C that you might already have at home.
- Oranges, orange juice
- Lemon, lime
- Kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
- Broccoli & cauliflower
- Green & red peppers
- Kale & spinach
- Tomatoes, tomato juice
To find more recommendations for sources of Vitamin C, visit the National Institutes of Health website.
Zinc may also help lessen the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Zinc is found naturally in foods like beef, seafood, liver and eggs. It is also readily available in supplement form at your pharmacy.
Aromatherapy for Congestion
Essential oils may help soothe the throat, reduce inflammation, and clear away mucus. The medical community tends to view essential oils as a complementary alternative therapy rather than a medical treatment. These oils should be used with caution as there are no approved guidelines for dosage or strength, and not at all if you have high- or low-blood pressure, epilepsy, or asthma. Be sure to check with your doctor for a recommendation.
For those with no underlying health concerns, any of the 12 essential oils below may help to relieve a cough:
- Tea tree
Oils may be used topically – diluted eucalyptus oil can be an effective chest decongestant – but they should never be inhaled directly. Essential oils are most safely and easily enjoyed by using a diffuser, or by simply diluting the oil in boiling water and inhaling the steam. Some common uses of essential oils for cold care include:
- Peppermint oil to help clear nasal stuffiness
- Lavender oil or cedar to help soothe irritated nasal passages
- Menthol to relieve congestion and inhibit infection
The Sweet Science Behind Honey and Health
High-quality honey is rich in antioxidants, may help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. If you’re suffering from a cough, taking a teaspoon of honey 30 minutes before bedtime may help relieve cough symptoms and contribute to better sleep.
Sip Some Tea for Relaxing, Natural Cold Care
Herbal teas, especially when complemented by honey, can feel great when you have a sore throat and just need a little TLC. You’ll find recipes for herbal tea remedies here that use dried herbs and flowers to combat cold symptoms. Be sure to get your herbs from a trusted source, or look for convenient herbal teabags. You can also find recipes online to make your own natural cold lozenges.