An Easy Way to Battle the Common Cold


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  69 comments   :  26,734 Views

I donít need to look at a calendar to know that cold season has arrived in my house. Runny noses, sneezing and coughing are the norm since my daughter recently started preschool again. I love this time of year for the cooler weather and changing leaves. But in some ways I dread it because at least one person in my family always seems to be sick from October through January.

We practice good habits like regular hand washing to ward off some of the germs. But no matter how hard I try, itís inevitable that my kids will get sick at least some time in the next few months. Once they do, itís anyoneís guess how long the symptoms will last. Sometimes itís just a day or two, but other times, the stubborn germs seem to hang on for weeks. Iím always looking for easy ways to speed up the healing process that donít involve medication (when thatís possible.) Recently I read about one simple technique that could prevent us from experiencing some of those common cold symptoms. I think itís worth a try.

A 2005 study, published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, followed 400 people for 60 days during cold and flu season. One group was told to gargle with salt water three times a day. "At the end of the study period, the group that regularly gargled had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compared with the control group, and when they did get sick, "gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms," the researchers wrote."

Medical experts say a saline solution can loosen thick mucus and draw excess fluid from inflamed tissue in the throat, easing cough and cold symptoms. The technique sounds simple, according to the Mayo Clinic: dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water and gargle the solution for a few seconds before spitting it out. Even if it doesnít help, itís a simple, inexpensive, and worth a try.

Check out Self-Care Tips for Sick Days for other ways to fight off germs this season. And if you are one of the unlucky ones who end up getting it, Beat the Flu! Hereís How.

What simple things do you do to prevent sickness during the winter months? If you do get sick, do you have any tricks for a speedy recovery?

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    I had a cold coming on while participating in an asthma study. The doctor told me that a cold could jeopardize my participation. She advised me to paint my septum with vaseline, and gargle with salt water. I also ate some chinese hot and sour soup. No cold ensued. - 3/30/2015   1:15:20 PM
  • 68
    Almost 40 years ago, we had an eye, ear, nose, & throat specialist recommend a salt water gargle, only he added a teaspoon of vinegar & teas. salt. And yeah, you're supposed to gargle til the whole cup is empty. It really did help. I should try it again. - 10/30/2010   5:28:39 PM
  • 67
    sounds easy enough, if I feel a cold coming on I will try this! - 10/21/2010   8:32:03 AM
  • 66
    I read the attached article "one simple technique" which says to gargle with salt water 3 times a day. I am going to try and hope that it works. - 10/20/2010   8:52:53 AM
  • 65
    Vitamin C, Vitamin B complex and lots of hand washing are my best bets, I have 3 little ones and found this combination to keep me healthy. - 10/19/2010   10:41:45 AM
    When I feel a cold coming on (that achy-body and scratchy throat), I have a cup of hot water with a quarter of a lemon squeezed into it and honey. The hot water clears the sinuses, the lemon gives a shot of vitamin C (and flavor), and the honey soothes the throat. If I don't have time, I make sure I take some extra vitamin C. But since I started doing that (a couple times a day), my colds are shorter and easier. - 10/18/2010   1:40:07 PM
  • 63
    I use Nasonex (Rx) to combat my allergy symptoms in spring and fall, so I don't catch colds often. I believe the best medicine for a cold is REST. When I feel one coming on, I go to bed about 60 minutes earlier than my usual time for 2-3 nights, and that usually beats it. My mother depends on her saline spray. - 10/18/2010   1:16:25 PM
  • 62
    As soon as I feel a cold coming on I start adding Airborne in my water, it was created by a second grade school teacher! Great product. Haven't had a full blown cold in over 3 years! Knock on wood!! - 10/18/2010   12:07:13 PM
    The neti-pot with a pinch of salt added to warm water works wonders to keep you virus free. When everyone is hacking & coughing at work I just add a clove of garlic (garlic is anti-viral/antibiotic) to the fruits & vegetables that I juice each morning. - 10/18/2010   8:57:42 AM
  • 60
    For some reason I can't gargle, I just end up gagging. I am able to use a Neti Pot and that helps with my allergies. I don't get colds often, maybe once a year. Maybe b/c I use Neti and wash my hands often. - 10/18/2010   8:45:59 AM
  • 59
    I hardly ever get colds anymore, & when I do I suck 2 Cold-Eeze (ionized zinc) lozenges daily over the first 48 hours. They zap the cold nicely; if I continue to have symptoms, they are extremely minor, a mini-cold that I hardly notice. - 10/17/2010   10:57:57 PM
  • 58
    Why haven't heard this before...I need to try this, because colds tend to move straight to my chest for a coughfest - 10/17/2010   8:36:39 PM
    The salt water gargle does help,especially with sore throats-my mother used to have us do this when we got colds. Also, I use Zicam, and a saline nasal spray. - 10/17/2010   7:02:40 PM
  • 56
    I have done the gargling with salt water and it does seem to help with sore throats and sinus drainage. Are we supposed to gargle the entire cup? that is a lot of gargling - I usually just do a mouth full. Maybe more gargling will further relieve the symptoms.

    My Dr and other experts claim there is nothing to the myth that vitamin C helps prevent colds but I have been taking supplements from mid Oct to Feb for the past 5 years and know it has made a difference. Up until then I would always end up with chronic bronchitis every year for the preceding 15. Since starting with the vitamin C, I have had colds but have escaped the bronchitis so I swear by vitamin C. - 10/17/2010   5:11:06 PM
  • 55
    Zicam is great also... - 10/17/2010   9:08:27 AM
  • 54
    I literally live on Elixir medication as I suffer from sinuses acting up after 7p.m every day which is about the time I am getting out of the shower and I start sneezing and have a runny nose...but the side effect to my Benjamin Elixir is that it makes me drowsy.

    I am constantly visited by the flu virus everytime one is around so I know the signs. At the slightest onset of a scratchy throat, etc. I immediately do extra topping up of my Vitamin C and take Panadol Multi-symptom. If I do come down with it, at least the recovery period is much shorter. - 10/17/2010   8:52:02 AM
    Thanks for that tip - my mother always had us gargle with salt water and I'd forgotten about it! Another thing to try - Vicks on the feet! Rub it especially into the arch areas where bronchial pathways can be blocked. This helps with that pesky little cough that won't go away. Best while you're sleeping with white socks (red will stain your feet). - 10/17/2010   8:42:12 AM
  • 52
    We use the Neti-pot and gargling at our house. The neti-pot was suggested to my DH by his ENT Doctor and his chiropracter because of his allergies, then my sister (who is a nurse) gave him one for Christmas and he got a free one from Neti-pot on Facebook. - 10/17/2010   12:49:36 AM
  • 51
    I am getting over a head cold so I do gargle with salt water, use a saline spray for my nose and I also rub Vicks on my throat and neck and that seems to help break upl the congestion and phlegm. I also got extra sleep this week and that was a plus. - 10/16/2010   11:30:26 PM
  • 50
    I am getting over a head cold so I do gargle with salt water, use a saline spray for my nose and I also rub Vicks on my throat and neck and that seems to help break upl the congestion and phlegm. I also got extra sleep this week and that was a plus. - 10/16/2010   11:27:17 PM
  • 49
    I had forgotten about the old Listerine gargle method, we used to do this as kids. If only those over the counter meds were not allowed to advertise on tv, showing sick people taking them, and then leave the house to go to work or to a party, people would finally STAY HOME when they are sick instead of heading out to infect all the rest of us!!!! That would help too!! I will get some Listerine already, and make sure to try the salt water one too, if and when the time comes.............. Also, doesn't anyone believe the company that produces Airborne, when they announced that their product really does no good at all against a cold??? Why still buy it?? - 10/16/2010   11:14:03 PM
  • 48
    Salt water works wonders for colds. A couple of years ago I visited the Chicago Dive Show and there was a doctor there that had developed an easy way to rinse your sinuses with saline. It's a small bottle (6 oz) that has a tip that goes into the nostril (like an Afrin bottle). There is a strawlike structure that goes from the hole in the top to the bottom of the bottle. When you squeeze the botte, the fluid goes up through the straw in into your sinuses. Cleans 'em out and the saline solution soothes the sinuses as well. Works like a charm. - 10/16/2010   8:51:54 PM
    I use the Neti pot and warm salt water gargle. Helps my seasonal allergies as well. When I take Airborne, I dissolve it in warm/hot water like a tea. Local honey has helped tremendously with my allergies and have not had asthma symptoms in more than 5 years. We should watch our diet as sugar and dairy products tend to aggravate upper respiratory infections and symptoms such as increasing mucus production. When my throat gets irritated, I use Thayer's Slippery Elm losenges. My choir director discourages the use of methol-based cough drops because it constricts your throat, not good for a singer. - 10/16/2010   7:37:26 PM
  • 46
    You don't need to get fancy with the Neti pot thing - just take some warm water and a little bit of salt (less salty than the gargle) in a glass and snort it. I know it sounds disgusting, but gargling just doesn't get where you need to get to help with that post nasal drip. Of course, you can do both. Some say that is the most effective of all. In a pinch the nasal sprays like Ocean can do the same thing. - 10/16/2010   7:29:02 PM
    I can't gargle either. I take 5 drops of Collodial Silver 500ppm 1x a day during the cold and flu season. If I do get a cold--pull out the hot green chile stew or red chile stew. The hotter the better to open up those sinuses. - 10/16/2010   6:39:32 PM
  • 44
    I've used an organic tincture of osha root and goldenseal called "Get Over It" for many years. That plus the salt (or a garlic) gargle work great for me and my family. - 10/16/2010   3:10:10 PM
  • 43
    Some old wive's tales/remedies are the best way to treat or prevent illness. One other thing I've been doing lately, which seems to help when colds are aggravated by allergies, is to take a teaspoon of local honey a day, whether in yogurt, tea, or just by itself, as the pollen from the local area honey acts as an immune booster. Also, when that inevitable sore throat hits, a mixture of honey, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and hot water, soothes the throat and gives you an extra boost of Vitamin C from the lemon and pepper. Despite what you'd think, drinking the cayenne pepper doesn't bother the gastric system, or so I've found. - 10/16/2010   1:34:48 PM
  • 42
    Anyone can gargle, take a mouthful of salt water, tilt your head back and breath out slowly or growl. we used to growl, we thought it made it go deeper into the throat. - 10/16/2010   1:05:02 PM
  • 41
    The neti pot was hard for me at first; I'm a nose breather. But, I agree, it helps. I can only tolerate half the recommended salt solution, however. Saline nasal spray really helps; I keep some at the bedside for nighttime use. Also, I like the breathe right nasal strips. Those are the tapes that keep your nostrils open.
    The health food store has other nasal sprays that might be helpful; two I like are collodial silver and xylitol.
    Vit D and Vit C. I use airborne and really like the nighttime solution; hot apple cider flavor.
    Funny, my voice teacher and I had a huge conversation about this yesterday; clogged vocal cords are no joke to a singer!
    Dianne - 10/16/2010   12:59:12 PM
  • 40
    May be hard to believe for some, but I battle sickness with Positive Thinking!
    I also don't over-do with the sanitizing of counter tops, over-sterilizing, etc.
    I have been very healthy all my life, and this is the way I have always lived. And recently I am reading that the killing of germs also kills the ability of one's own body to FIGHT germs, since the body can not build up immunities.
    Just some food for thought........... - 10/16/2010   12:31:51 PM
    To the best of my ability, I stay away from sick people !! In particular, my co-workers who have a bad habit of sneezing all over the office ! I've found that eating a healthy diet makes the biggest difference though. When you're insides are healthy, you're less likely to catch a cold. I know that ever since I've embarked on my healthy lifestyle, I've gotten fewer and fewer colds/flu. If I do happen to catch a cold, it doesn't last long. In past, when I wasn't eating right, I'd be sick for weeks. Not any more. These days, if I catch a cold, it lasts a couple of days.

    So, what do I do to fend off a cold ? I stay away from sick people's germs and I eat right.
    - 10/16/2010   12:22:44 PM
    A neti pot helps to keep sinuses cleared out. I am a teacher and am exposed to a LOT of germs but rarely get sick. It helps to keep your immune system strong by eating well. Also, I take supplements to help my immune system. I think that Airborne works but I don't like the artificial sweetener in it so usually take elderberry syrup during cold and flu season. I don't know what kinds of snacks they have at your daughters preschool but if she is eating more refined sugar than usual it could depress her immune system. (I see many in my classroom "catch a cold" after Halloween.) - 10/16/2010   11:31:51 AM
    I have tried this, and it is not a good idea for me, since the salt water activates my gag reflex, resulting in vomiting. - 10/16/2010   11:08:58 AM
    Wish this had been posted a week and a half ago when I got a roaring head cold (first one in a long, LONG time). Still recuperating from it and will definitely try this to alleviate the lingering symptoms. Thanks! - 10/16/2010   10:51:19 AM
  • 35
    The second I feel scratchiness in my throat I start gargling with Listerine and I swear that about 90% of the time, it will go away! - 10/16/2010   10:45:33 AM
  • 34
    Thanks for the reminder. I'm getting a cold now. Think I will go with the Neti pot now, maybe the gargling before bed. - 10/16/2010   10:27:10 AM
  • 33
    I remember as a kid having to gargle with salt water as well.
    It's funny how we think things are old wife's tales but they turn out to benefit us. - 10/16/2010   9:44:47 AM
  • 32
    Gargling with salt water was my mom's treatment for a cold!

    I used to take OTC cold remedies that really dry you out, but stopped because I was diagnosed with Sjogrens. To my surprise, I found out I do much, much better without them. The saline spray helps (haven't tried the neti pot), but my big problem is coughing. I've determined that I have a sensitive cough reflex - the slightest irritation in my throat gets me started, and the more I cough the more irritated it gets until I end up with bronchitis. So, the one medicine I use is prescription cough remedies that do not contain an antihistamine to dry me out.

    - 10/16/2010   9:13:09 AM
    AvonGal, not a dumb question - probably only those of us with chronic issues like allergies have heard of a neti pot. I found this definition on Wiki: "Neti pots flush out the nasal cavities by using gravity to draw the flow of saline" (for more info and a picture, go to
    ). I have the Sinus Rinse (
    ) that you squeeze to squirt the solution into your nose, but have also used the neti pot. Both are great for opening your sinuses and flushing out allergens. Highly recommended by my allergist. BTW, he gave me this simple recipe to make your own sodium chloride & sodium bicarbonate mixture for use in the neti pot/sinus rinse:
    - Mix 2 parts pickling/canning salt to 1 part baking soda
    - Use up to 1/4 teaspoon with 8 oz. warm tap water

    I remember using saltwater gargles in the past to soothe a sore throat. I'll have to try it next time I have a cold. - 10/16/2010   9:06:17 AM
  • AVONGAL1157
    I hate to appear dumb but what is a neti pot.? I never heard of it. - 10/16/2010   8:36:09 AM
  • 29
    I use a neti pot more in the winter. it is a saline rinse for your nose. it does clear out your nose and air passages. works great! - 10/16/2010   8:18:49 AM
  • 28
    My Mother (87 yo) has told me for *years* that I should gargle with warm salty water because that's what *her* Father used to do. And of course, neither of them suffered much with colds & flu - even though Grandad was alive during the bubonic plague scare in the early 1900s.
    It's only taken the medical fraternity a couple of centuries to confirm an age old *home remedy*... - 10/16/2010   5:11:11 AM
  • 27
    I use a neti pot to rinse my sinuses with saline. It really does help. - 10/16/2010   1:59:02 AM
  • 26
    I wash my hands frequently. Old habit from working as a nurse, but it does help with not getting colds. - 10/16/2010   1:06:40 AM
    I'm another fan of the neti pot and salt water gargle. Using the neti pot twice a day during the summer allergy season gave such relief from sneezing, sniffling and watery eyes. And my grandmother suggested the salt water gargle to clear all the, um, icky stuff from the throat. Worked well for me. - 10/15/2010   11:51:31 PM
    you are so right it is cold season and we have to be very careful . germs are every where . - 10/15/2010   10:32:43 PM
  • 23
    I get sick when I don't get enough sleep. I can actually tell when I'll get sick. Once I am sick, it will take me a day, maybe two to get better IF I rest. It's amazing how the body really does need sleep and rest. - 10/15/2010   9:41:21 PM
  • 22
    I find the idea of Neti pots personally disgusting but thats just me. I suppose there something to this-funny, I can remember as a kid being nagged by my mom to gargle with salt water (which i HATED at the time inspite of being a somewhat saltaholic even now- there something gag inducing about warm salty water) but I think in some respect it might have worked only she had us doing it after we had RAW throats (not fun).
    I think that alot of people dont clean common things as much as we should (ie door knobs etc) also I wonder if people dont air out their houses as much in the winter as in days gone by, I also remeber being a young lad of 13 taking karate for the first time (I NEVER got a cold I think I sweated them out -it was great) - 10/15/2010   8:55:57 PM
  • 21
    My husband told me about the salt water gargle and we trained our kids to use it the first sign of a sore throat. It really works. They come asking for it when they get that first tickle in their throat. Works wonders. - 10/15/2010   8:29:39 PM
    Neti pot and saline spray - can't beat it. - 10/15/2010   7:39:20 PM

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