You’ve been sneezing, sniffling and coughing for a while now, and you’re not feeling your best. But you’re determined to shake this cold as quickly as possible and get back to your normal life. So you start researching all the ways to get rid of a cold.
There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold, but the rhinovirus is by far the most common culprit. There are also many other types of viruses that doctors haven’t identified, and about 20%-30% of colds in adults are caused by these “unknown” viruses.
The good news is that the majority of colds will disappear without treatment. But if you’re dealing with a cold that lasts for longer than 10 days or you’re concerned about symptoms that may be more serious, make an appointment with your doctor to determine what’s wrong and how best to treat it.
Until recently, we didn’t have a way to prevent colds because there was no effective vaccine for the many different viruses that cause them. However, new research is showing that it might be possible to develop a single cold vaccine that would protect against all of the major types of cold viruses.
In addition, some cold medications and home remedies have been shown to help reduce the duration of a cold or prevent it from happening in the first place. For example, a study found that people who regularly got seven to nine hours of sleep were more likely to have healthy immune systems and less likely to catch a cold than those who slept less or didn’t get enough rest.
To avoid catching a cold, try to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea to boost your immune system and keep you from getting sick.
You can also wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available, says Dr. David Ulm, a medical advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Don’t share utensils, pens, toothbrushes, or other items that have been used by someone with a cold. And remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, so the virus won’t spread.
Stay away from places where people are contagious, especially during the first few days of a cold. If you do go to work or school, make sure you don’t share a desk or any other shared surfaces, and try not to talk with anyone who is contagious.
Be careful around children, too, because they’re especially vulnerable to colds. This is particularly true during the winter when children are more likely to be in close contact with others, such as at school or day care facilities.
A common mistake people make is assuming that the flu, COVID-19, or other respiratory infections are spread by inhalation, or by blowing your nose. In fact, a cold virus is actually spread through direct physical contact with contaminated droplets that a person with the virus releases into the air when they cough or sneeze.