A tickle in your throat, a cloudy head, an achy body: There is no doubt that you are coming down with something. The average adult gets two or three colds per year, with each lasting an average of seven to 10 days. Symptoms tend to peak within the first three days. However, some symptoms can last up to two weeks.
Here is what to do when you start feeling sick so that you can feel better as soon as possible.
Colds typically start with a sore throat and runny nose, but you may also have other symptoms, such as:
- Body aches
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There is no way to cure a cold, but there are some steps you can take to help ease your symptoms.
Drinking water and juice to stay hydrated can help cut down on symptoms like a sore throat and stuffy nose.
To help prevent dehydration, try to steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated drinks. If your throat is too scratchy to gulp anything down, try sucking on ice chips.
Add Honey to Water
Honey can help alleviate cough. This may be because honey has antimicrobial properties and can help relieve irritation and inflammation in the airway.
Eat one to two tablespoons straight from the jar or stirred into tea or water. While honey is a good option for both adults and children, it should not be given to children under 12 months old, as it can lead to infant botulism.
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Gargle With Salt Water
If you have a scratchy throat, add half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and then gargle it and spit it out. This can help alleviate a sore throat.
You can do this several times a day. However, this remedy is only suitable for people over the age of 6 who can gargle without swallowing.
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Try a Nasal Spray
While more research is needed, using a saline nasal spray right after cold symptoms first appear may reduce their impact by moisturizing dry nasal passages and loosening mucous. Be sure to follow the instructions and warnings on the packaging.
In conjunction with a nasal spray, take a hot shower. Warm moisture can help clear out your nasal passages.
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Take an OTC Medicine
Grab a pain reliever like acetaminophen to fight off achiness and possibly even quell a low-grade fever. Over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications like Zyrtec and Benadryl might help with symptoms like watery eyes, at least for a day or two.
Meanwhile, allergy medications that contain decongestants, like Claritin D or Alavert D, will help clear your sinuses. Consult with a healthcare provider about which medications—if any—would be best for you.
Keep in mind that children under the age of 2 should not be given any cough or cold medications, as this can lead to severe and potentially fatal side effects. Ask a healthcare provider before giving cold medication to a child between the ages of 2 and 4.
If you are considering giving medication to an older child, talk to a healthcare provider or read and follow the label and its instructions carefully. Opt for child-specific products. Avoid products designed for adults, as they can lead to overdose when given to children.
Using more than one product with the same drug (e.g. a pain reliever with acetaminophen alongside a cold medicine containing acetaminophen) can also lead to overdose, which is another reason it's so important to read the packaging of each product you use.
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Take a Sick Day
If you are able to stay home, it's best to do so. Your body can fight off the virus better if you're well-rested, so sleep is your best friend when you're ill. Staying home will also help you avoid spreading the cold to other people.
If you have to go to work, steer clear of co-workers as best you can—the first few days of a cold are when you're most contagious. To keep from sharing your germs, wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You may even want to wear a mask, as masks can reduce the spread of not only COVID-19 but other illnesses as well.
If you think your cold symptoms may be due to COVID-19, isolate and get tested. If you test negative, you can end isolation.
If you test positive for COVID-19, follow CDC guidance to determine how long you should isolate. If you have no choice but to be around others, wear a high-quality mask and avoid being around people who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications.
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Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods
Focus on eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet to help fuel your immune system and fight off your cold. This means prioritizing protein-packed foods like lean meat, fish, or beans, with a whole-grain side like brown rice, and plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Eat Hot Soup
While you're sipping on plenty of juice and water, you may want to enjoy some soup, too. Some research suggests the soup might actually have some anti-inflammatory benefits. It also tastes comforting when you're under the weather.
Chicken noodle soup is a soothing option when you are sick. If you prefer not to eat meat, you can boost your immune system with vegetable soup or lentil soup.
Do Some Light Movement
If you're up for a little activity, light or moderate exercise can help boost your immune system. However, you'll probably want to tone down your workout a little bit. For example, if you typically go for a run, take a leisurely walk, or enjoy a relaxing yoga session instead.
If you have more serious symptoms such as a fever, cough, chills, or body aches, it's best to avoid exercise until you are feeling better to allow your body to get some well-needed rest. Consult with a healthcare provider before working out if you have an underlying condition like COPD, asthma, or heart disease.
If over the course of a few days, you feel worse, call a healthcare provider. You'll also want to consult with a healthcare provider if your symptoms last longer than 10 days or if you develop severe or unusual symptoms. These are signs you may have something other than the common cold (such as flu or an infection), and you may need other treatment.
Call a healthcare provider as soon as possible if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you develop flu symptoms like chills, fever, and muscle or body aches. Your healthcare provider can find out whether the illness is the flu or a cold and can recommend treatment accordingly. High-risk groups include:
- Children under the age of 5
- People over the age of 65
- People with certain medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, and asthma)
- Pregnant people
A Quick Summary
Colds typically last for around a week, and some symptoms can stick around for up to two weeks. Fortunately, you can help ease your symptoms by taking a day off, drinking a lot of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and getting in some light physical activity if your symptoms are mild. Eating the right foods, taking over-the-counter medication, and following some expert-approved home remedies can also be helpful.
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Sleeping is essential to your recovery. Hence, ensuring that you can get enough sleep is imperative. In fact, it is better to get sleep and rest as much as you can. If you find yourself staying in bed all day, it is okay.What to do when you are feeling sick? ›
- get plenty of fresh air.
- distract yourself – for example, listen to music or watch a film.
- take regular sips of a cold drink.
- drink ginger or peppermint tea.
- eat foods containing ginger – such as ginger biscuits.
- eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Notify your supervisor. Meet with your supervisor to let them know you're feeling ill and head home once you receive their approval to do so.
- Let other coworkers know you're out of the office. ...
- Ask to work from home.
- Wishing you a speedy recovery.
- Feel better soon!
- Sending lots of love and hugs your way.
- You're in my thoughts.
- Take extra good care of yourself.
- I miss having you around.
- You'll be feeling healthy and strong again soon!
- Praying for an easy recovery.
- Stay hydrated. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. ...
- Rest. Your body needs rest to heal.
- Soothe a sore throat. ...
- Combat stuffiness. ...
- Relieve pain. ...
- Sip warm liquids. ...
- Try honey. ...
- Add moisture to the air.
Sleeping is essential to your recovery. Hence, ensuring that you can get enough sleep is imperative. In fact, it is better to get sleep and rest as much as you can. If you find yourself staying in bed all day, it is okay.What to drink when sick? ›
Electrolyte solutions or sports drinks, such as Pedialyte for children and Gatorade (try the sugar-free version), are good options. Herbal teas, particularly those containing ginger, can be very soothing. Regular tea is also okay but try not to drink too much caffeine when you are sick.Should I go to work if I feel slightly sick? ›
All employees should stay home if they are sick until at least 24 hours after their fever* (temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher) is gone. Temperature should be measured without the use of fever-reducing medicines (medicines that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen).Should I leave work if I throw up? ›
If you are vomiting, with or without diarrhoea, you should not go to work until you've had neither for 24 hours because your hands may contaminate work surfaces.Should I miss work for a cold? ›
If you've had cold symptoms for 10 days or fewer and you've been fever-free for 24 hours, you're probably safe to go to work. Keep your tissues, over-the-counter remedies, and hand sanitizer close by, and try to remember that even though you're miserable now, you'll likely feel better in a few days.
When you convalesce, you heal or grow strong after illness or injury, often by staying off your feet. The related adjective convalescent means "recovering from sickness or debility," and a convalescent home is a hospital for long-term recuperation and rehabilitation.What do you say when someone says they feel sick? ›
- A note to remind you that I love you—and I hate that you're sick.
- I hate it when my favorite people get hurt. ...
- I miss having you around. ...
- Sending you lots of feel-better hugs.
- Get better and get back to your amazing self soon!
- I can't tell you how to get better.
The return of a disease or the signs and symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement. Relapse also refers to returning to the use of an addictive substance or behavior, such as cigarette smoking.What can I do to make myself feel better? ›
- Seek mental health care. This is at the top of the list for a reason. ...
- Sleep enough. Most of us spend one-quarter to one-third of our lives asleep. ...
- Eat plenty of fiber. ...
- Go outside. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Do something creative. ...
- Practice a little escapism. ...
- Help someone.
When you're feeling nauseous, you might be tempted to make yourself throw up. This doesn't always help. In fact, it can sometimes do more harm than good.
When you're feeling your worst, staying in bed will likely be a no-brainer. As you work toward recovery, however, it's important that you avoid lying on your back, especially if you are experiencing shortness of breath.
The bottom line. Sleeping when you're sick is essential for your recovery. Sleep helps to boost your immune system, so you can fight off your illness more effectively. Your body knows what it needs, so don't worry if you find yourself sleeping a lot when you're sick, especially in the first few days.Should I wear clothes to bed when sick? ›
If you have a fever, try to dress in light, loose clothing that will allow you to sweat properly. This way, your body has a way of cooling itself off, and you reduce your chances of dehydration too! In addition, make sure you sleep with a sheet or light blanket. Avoid heavy comforters and blankets if possible.Can Covid start with feeling sick? ›
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.Can Covid just make you feel sick? ›
Some people with COVID-19 feel fine. Some people with COVID-19 feel bad. Some people with COVID-19 get very sick. People with other health problems may get very sick.
If you're feeling nauseous, following the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, apples and toast – may be your preference. The BRAT diet does not have as many nutrients as other food options, but it is easy on the stomach. If you are having trouble keeping food down, this might be the way to go.Can you have a 24 hour cold? ›
What's the outlook? The 24-hour flu is a highly contagious and short-lasting condition that's caused by infection with a virus. The term “24-hour flu” is a bit of a misnomer, as the viruses that cause the condition aren't related to the flu virus. Additionally, symptoms can last longer than 24 hours.Why am I feeling sick? ›
A lack of sleep, poor diet, anxiety, or stress can often cause a person to feel sick. These factors can make a person more susceptible to infection and illness. However, always feeling sick can also signify pregnancy or chronic illness. When sick, a person may experience stomach discomfort and vomiting.Why do you feel sicker at night? ›
At night, there is less cortisol in your blood. As a result, your white blood cells readily detect and fight infections in your body at this time, provoking the symptoms of the infection to surface, such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating. Therefore, you feel sicker during the night.What are the 3 new symptoms of coronavirus? ›
On June 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added three symptoms to its COVID-19 list: Congestion/stuffy nose, nausea and diarrhea. Those three new conditions now join other symptoms identified by the CDC: Fever.