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9 Things You Can Do to Make a Cold Less Miserable

Sometimes a bad cold stops you in your tracks but there's no reason why you have to feel miserable. Here's how to ride out a cold in comfort.

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Power up your immune system

You might think vitamin C is the surest way to power through a cold, but a review of studies, published in 2017 in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, suggests that zinc may help shorten the duration of the common cold (although it won’t help prevent one). “Zinc is necessary for the immune system to perform,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of Smart Fat: Eat More Fat. Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now. You can consider taking a zinc supplement at the first sign of a cold. Of course, you should always check with your doctor first to make sure it won’t interfere with any of your medications. Check out these other 12 habits that boost your immune system.

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Get some TLC

Have a good friend or partner who can bring some warmth and compassion to your sick bed? A review of studies published in 2015 in the European Journal of Pain suggests that empathy can have a small, but significant effect on pain. Researchers found that making positive suggestions and helping with preparation (in the form of providing information) seemed to lower patients’ pain. They aren’t sure what specific elements of communication are most effective, but this much seems clear: Comfort in the form of empathy really does seem to help you feel better. Find out here how doctors avoid getting colds.

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Laugh it up

Having a cold is hardly a comedy fest but having a good laugh is good for your health. Laughter also has positive effect on regulating components of the immune system, reduce pain, and relieve stress. See how keeping a laughter journal can change your life. And steer clear of the foods and drink that could make your cold or flu worse.

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Ensure a good night’s sleep

It’s hard to sleep when you’re stuffed up or coughing. Your sinuses will drain better if your head is raised to promote drainage. Problem is, propping up pillows bends your neck in a way that can actually make it harder to breathe. Grab that empathetic friend and have him help you raise the head of your bed instead. Place large books or something sturdy under the legs of your headboard and secure them to create a more natural incline. Ahh, sleepy town awaits! Check out these 10 sleep aids that are actually hurting your sleep.

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Get a gargle you’ll actually use

Having a sore throat makes the common cold even more miserable when you can’t swallow chicken noodle soup or sip a cup of hot tea. Gargling salt water is confusing. (How much salt to water?) Raj Dasgupta MD, a pulmonary, critical care, and sleep specialist at the University of Southern California’s Keck Medicine, recommends Nature’s Jeannie Gargle Away Advanced Throat Care. “The blend of germ-fighting, pain-relieving, and highly soothing ingredients is equally powerful providing symptomatic relief you won’t find in traditional home remedy gargles,” says Dr. Dasgupta.

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Pamper your schnoz

When you are blowing your nose all the time, it gets swollen, red, and chapped. A rough and thinly lined tissue just makes matters worse because you get the slimy stuff (and germs) on your hands. Try a tissue with lotion like Puffs Plus Lotion Facial Tissues. You can also dab a little Aquaphor balm under and around your nostrils. Don’t forget to tuck some tissues in your pocket the next time you go outside in cold weather. Here’s why your nose runs when it’s cold.

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Look for the right lozenge

Do throat lozenges work? In a word: yes. But with so many available, it’s difficult to choose which one will be soothing and taste decent. Dara Huang, MD, a physician specializing in nephrology and hypertension and founder of New York Culinary Medicine in New York, has some suggestions to narrow down the choices. “While menthol, found in Hall’s cough drops can soothe the throat, medicated lozenges such as Cepacol or Chloraseptic also contain benzocaine, a numbing medication,” she says. If the medicine taste isn’t tolerable, Ricola is more pleasant and has fewer unnatural ingredients. Dr. Huang suggests adding lozenges to a cup of hot water and letting it dissolve for a soothing cup of comfort.

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Eat chicken and veggie soup

There is something comforting about curling up on the sofa and wrapping your hands around a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup. The hot fluid keeps your nasal passages moist, loosens mucus, and keeps you hydrated. (Get the whole bowl of scientific facts on why chicken soup is good for colds.) Chicken vegetable soup is readily available but a lot of soup is high in sodium. Eating a can of soup can contain up to 75 percent or more of your daily recommended salt intake. Choose a low-sodium variety that has plenty of hearty vegetables and chicken and be careful of these other foods high in sodium.

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Take trifecta comfort

Dr. Huang says one of the best ways to ride out a cold besides getting plenty of rest is to drink warm soothing fluids like tea. Some teas are better suited for our immune system than others. Take, for example, ginger turmeric herbal tea.”Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and other benefits,” says Dr Huang. Turmeric is rich in curcumin and volatile oils that can help your cold from getting worse. If you can’t drink tea without a sweetener try honey and make this combo a trifecta of comfort. Honey has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties which work on your behalf when you have a cold.

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Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer and writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and Realtor.com., among others. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.