A cold is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. The effects of the virus often take a few days to appear. There is no cure, but the symptoms are easy to treat and usually subside in a week or so.

Cold remedies usually fall into two different categories: over-the-counter medications and home remedies. Decongestants, pain relievers, and anti-histamines are common OTC remedies. Home remedies are often very effective in treating a common cold. They are inexpensive and have minimal side effects.

Nasal congestion

A stuffy nose is prevalent when you have a cold. Excess fluid causes mucous membranes and blood vessels to swell. You only need to worry if the mucus becomes thick and yellowy green in color. If it lasts too long and you develop sinus pain or a severe headache, you may need to see a doctor. Many methods are available for treating nasal congestion.

Saline drops are available over-the-counter, and you don’t need a prescription. They cause blood vessels in the nose to contract, reducing swelling. You can use a neti pot to flush a saline solution through your nasal passages. It thins, loosens and rinses away mucus. Using a vapor rub can also deal with congestion. It opens up the airways and breaks down mucus. Elevating your head can decrease the flow of blood to the nose and relieve congestion too. Taking a hot, steamy shower can also help.

Read our article on The Causes and Symptoms of Post-Nasal Drip.




When a cold virus enters the body, it releases inflammatory mediators like histamine. This causes mucus glands to secrete fluid and blood vessels to dilate. The irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose and throat cause sneezing.

There is not much you can do to prevent sneezing. When your other symptoms go, your sneezing will stop too. You can treat sneezing with antihistamines. Over-the-counter medications for colds often contain antihistamines.




Coughing can go with a cold. It is usually a wet or a productive cough that expels phlegm. This cough can take some time to go away, but it is not usually a cause for concern. If a cough comes with a fever and thick, greenish mucus, it’s time to visit a doctor.

Cough syrups are readily available over-the-counter. The expectorant in a cough syrup loosens mucus, increases its water content and thins it out. You can make your own natural expectorant if you prefer. A teaspoon of dried licorice root with a honey and lemon drink will help. A peppermint tea contains menthol which also helps to thin mucus. Eucalyptus is another used natural expectorant and decongestant.



A Sore Throat

The cause of a sore, scratchy throat gets inflamed tissues due to the cold virus. It can make swallowing difficult, especially when eating solid food. Sore throats that go with a cold are best treated with home remedies.

Gargling with warm, salty water can make your sore throat feel better. Hot water with two teaspoons of honey and juice of half a lemon is a favorite drink for sore throats. Lemon is a good source of vitamin C and boosts the immune system. The honey coats irritated mucous membranes and makes swallowing easier. You can also use lozenges and sprays to soothe sore throats.

Worried it might be something more? Read Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat.



A Headache

A headache is often a debilitating symptom of a cold. The body’s immune response releases molecules called cytokines. They help the body to ward off the virus, but they can also cause headaches. Swelling and congestion in the sinuses may also lead to headaches.

Cold medications usually relieve a combination of cold symptoms, including headaches. Tylenol, for instance, alleviates headaches, sore throats, and fever. Lying down with a cold compress on your forehead on a dark room may help to relieve a headache. Headaches are often a sign of dehydration so upping fluid intake can help too.




Colds can cause dehydration due to sweating from a fever. It is important for you to replace fluids. It is so because dehydration can cause many other problems.

You will need to drink more than you usually do. Drinking water hydrates you and can help to thin mucus. Plain water, a honey and lemon drink or a peppermint herbal tea are suitable. Avoid coffee, alcohol and caffeinated drinks which can dehydrate you more.

Think you might have this symptom? Learn more from our 10 Dehydration Symptoms article.




If you have a cold, you are likely to feel lethargic and lacking in energy. Your body needs time to heal and does this best when you rest.

If you persist in staying active, you don’t give your body an opportunity to recover. When you rest, you give your body the best possible chance of fighting off the virus.



Body Aches

When you have a cold, you may feel as though your whole body is aching, but this is more common if you have flu. It becomes difficult to move and do regular chores.

A warm bath can help to ease mild aches and pains. Taking an OTC like ibuprofen may be necessary if this does not help.



A Low-Grade Fever

When your temperature is slightly elevated, it is a sure sign that your immune system is fighting a cold. If you have a high temperature, you may be suffering from flu or some other condition rather than a cold.

One way to soothe a fever is with a sponge bath. Don’t use water that is too cold as this can make you shiver and cause your body temperature rise. Another option is to put a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead. A cup of ginger tea will help to reduce fever.

Find out how to Reduce Fever in Adults.



Loss Of Appetite

If you have a cold, you are likely to lose your appetite. Your throat may be too sore for you to eat solid foods. Liquid foods like soup can be a great option.

Chicken broth contains substances that relieve congestion, sooth a fever and reduce aches and pains. It goes down easily, tastes good and keeps up your energy levels. Cool foods such as yogurt may be appealing and can help to prevent dehydration and bring down a fever.



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