You’ve been there before—you rush to work, dig your way through a never-ending pile of emails, grab a quick bite between meetings, and then rush home to get dinner on the table. Then it hits you—a scratchy throat. Or worse, you start to feel chilled, feverish, and achy. Colds and flus can last as little as a couple of days to as long as a couple of weeks, but this 24-hour game plan will help you manage your cold and flu symptoms, so you can get back to your daily routine.
Gargle with water
If you’ve got a scratchy throat and low energy, try gargling with some water. Not convinced it will do the trick? According to a study of more than 400 volunteers published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, those who gargled with plain water were significantly less likely to come down with upper-respiratory infections (URTIs), which are often associated with colds and flus.
Gargling water won’t do any good if you don’t stay hydrated. And although we’re often told to get rest and drink lots of fluids when we’re sick, it’s worth qualifying exactly which liquids you should drink. Water, juice, clear broth, or warm lemon water with honey can work to loosen congestion and prevent dehydration.
Get some sleep
If you’re feeling under the weather, your best line of defense is putting your head to your pillow. The amount of sleep you get can have a profound effect on your ability to fight off current cold and flu symptoms, and even prevent them from occurring in the first place. To determine how sleep deprivation can affect how susceptible someone is to the common cold, researchers tracked the sleep habits of more than 150 healthy men and women. They then gave them nasal drops containing rhinovirus, a common infectious viral agent that leads to colds, and tracked them for another five days. According to the results, which were published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the men and women who regularly got less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to suffer from cold symptoms than those who got eight hours or more each night.
Take a sick day (and don’t stress about it)
Research consistently shows that chronic stress suppresses the immune response, so don’t waste a sick day by lying in bed and stressing about the work that’s piling up at your desk. Instead, practice a little mindfulness—whether that involves throwing on a meditation app or simply practicing some deep breathing techniques. Keep it up and you could also stave off future colds and flus, according to a recent study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, which found that consistent meditation can improve immune function.
Your state of mind can have an enormous impact on your health, and studies have proven that a positive attitude can boost your immune system, which is key if you’re trying to fight off cold and flu symptoms. To investigate the connection between optimism and immune response, researchers Suzanne Segerstrom and Sandra Sephton had more than 100 law students undergo immunity checks and answer a series of questionnaires measuring their optimism throughout the course of the school year. As their optimism levels rose and fell throughout classes, exams, and internship interviews, their immune system responses rose and fell alongside them. So when you take these steps to managing your symptoms, try to envision how they’re helping your body fight off the virus.
Eat some chicken soup
If your mother and grandmother turned to chicken soup every time someone in the family started to feel sick, you may have wondered how effective the old home remedy really is, or if it’s simply a tradition. As it turns out, there are benefits to eating the brothy mixture when you’re feeling under the weather, and research backs them up. The most widely cited study, conducted by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, found that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection, which Rennard theorized helped to reduce upper-respiratory cold symptoms.
Just when you start to feel the symptoms of a cold, take a chewable Jamieson Cold Fighter tablet. It’s filled with natural cold-fighting ingredients like echinacea, ginger, vitamin C and zinc, which can help relieve a sore throat and stuffy nose, and help reduce the duration of a cold. Pair this alongside your bowl of soup to give your immune system an even greater boost.
Break your fever and soothe your aches
If you’re battling a flu, there’s a good chance you have a fever too. After all, it’s one of the body’s most effective ways of fighting infection. Although a fever is often harmless, it can leave you sweating and shivering, with sore muscles and a headache. You could also feel weak, restless, and just miserable. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are some simple ways to treat your fever. In addition to rest and fluids, you should dress lightly, place a warm washcloth on your forehead, and consider over-the-counter methods to break your fever.
Practice proper hand washing
It’s no secret that washing your hands is effective in stopping the spread of infection. It might sound basic, but when something becomes such a common practice, it’s easy to take it for granted. Wet your hands with clean, running water before lathering them—including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails—with soap. Both antibacterial and non-antibacterial soap will do, but don’t skimp. And although the optimal amount of time you should spend washing your hands varies based on what you’re doing, evidence suggests that taking 15 to 30 seconds removes more germs than shorter periods, which has led many countries and global organizations to adopt a standard 20-second rule. If counting sounds tedious, try humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice before rinsing your hands under clean, running water.
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. (March 14, 2018). Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt. Retrieved from: Mayo Clinic
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- Segerstrom, S.C., Miller, G. E. (2006) Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psycho Bull, 140(6), 601-630.
Holzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., Ulrich, O. (2011). How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559.
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- Rennard, B.O. Erti, R.F., Gossman, G. L., et al. (2000). Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest, 118(4), 1150-1157.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (October 2, 2018). Show me the science: How to wash your hands. Retrieved from: CDC Website
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (September 18, 2018). Flu Symptoms and Complications. Retrieved from: CDC Website
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (February 12, 2018). Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Retrieved from: CDC Website