- Cold & flu season got you down?
- Rest well & wake up ready to go!
- How To Fall Asleep When You’re Sick & Counting Down The Hours Until Morning
- Good shut-eye is rare when you’re not feeling well. Try these tips to get a good night’s sleep even if you’re feeling under the weather.
- Tips For Getting Good Sleep When You’re Sick
- How to Sleep Better When You’re Sick
- Eat Chicken Soup for Dinner
- Try a Saline Rinse for Congestion
- Calm Your Cough
- Take a Steamy Shower
- Consider Skipping Stimulating Meds
- Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
- Keep Your Head Elevated
- Stock Your Nightstand
- How to Sleep When You Are Sick
- Why is it Difficult to Sleep When Sick?
- How do You Get that Much Needed Sleep?
- Link to Us!
- 8 Cold and Flu Remedies for a Good Night’s Sleep
- Cold and Flu Remedies to Help You Sleep
- Sleep Your Colds and Flus Away!
- How to Get Your Best Sleep When You Have a Cold or the Flu
- The Best Cold Medicines for Every Symptom
- Best Natural Cough Suppressant: Honey
- Best OTC Cough Suppressant: Dextromethorphan
- Best Multi-Symptom OTC Cold Medicine: CVS Health Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Relief Combo Pack
- Best On-the-Go Defense: Emergen-C
- Best Symptom Shortener: Elderberry Syrup
- Best Natural Immune Booster: Goop Perfect Attendance Elderberry Chews
- Best Nasal Spray Decongestant: CVS Health Nasal Spray
- Best Drinkable Symptom Relief: Theraflu PowerPods
- Best Homeopathic Treatment: Oscillococcinum
- Best Pain and Fever Relief: Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
- Best Non-Medicine Treatment: Humidifier
- Related posts:
Cold & flu season got you down?
Ugh, cold and flu season has arrived – just in time to ruin your winter. Sleep is a crucial part of kicking the cold (and flu) even though it may feel more stressful than restorative. Not to mention that when you’re sick, symptoms tend to worsen as bedtime approaches.
The coughing and runny nose started so we put on the stethoscope to investigate some simple (but smart) ways to enhance your sleep while battling your abominable cold and its ugly cousin, the flu. Read first, then rest…
1. Rethink your regular sleep position. Many people prefer to stack on an extra pillow when unable to sleep with a cold or the flu. This may cause your head to sag forward, worsening your breathing problems. Try using a foam wedge that lifts your upper body and helps the nasal packages drain. If you don’t have a wedge, layer pillows to form a triangular shape.
If you wake up with one side of your nose blocked, try switching positions. Laying on your back may worsen a postnasal drip – try sleeping on your side.
2. Maintain a consistent room temperature. Don’t be tempted to overheat the room because you have a cold. Keep the temperature at a comfortable level (69F – 72F) and bundle up with blankets that can be shoved off if you begin to overheat. The humidity in the room is important too. Dry air can worsen your cold symptoms and parch your nose and throat. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist or open up a window for fresh cool air – just don’t let the snow in.
3. Don’t drink alcohol. Sure, it will make you drowsy. But alcohol will dry you out, swell your sinuses and react badly with your cold or flu. Wait into until you’re feeling better to enjoy your evening nightcap.
4. Stick to your nightly routine. A cold can make it had to stick to your typical bedtime. But it’s best to wake up and head to bed at the same time as usual when you’re sick. Sticking to a schedule not only makes it easier to fall asleep – it can assist in fighting off the next cold. One study suggests that people who don’t get enough zzz’s are three times more likely to get sick than those who get 8 or more hours of sleep a night.
5. Soothe yourself with a warm drink before bed. Many people lose their appetite when the cold kicks in. “You don’t need to increase your fluid intake when you’re ill, but you do need to make sure you don’t get dehydrated,” says Dr Eccles. “And hot drinks are very good, particularly at night time.” Higher calorie drinks like Ovaltine or hot chocolate can help you sleep. More calories equal better sleep mode.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- 10 healthy breakfast recipes
- Learn how to sleep like an athlete
- The ultimate guide to creating a bedroom you’ll love sleeping in
Don’t let cold/flu season ruin your winter. Instead of hacking all night – hack into those great sleep tips.
How To Fall Asleep When You’re Sick & Counting Down The Hours Until Morning
When you’re sick as a dog, the last thing that’ll make you feel better is a bout of insomnia. It’s a total catch-22: You’re completely exhausted, but you can’t seem to fall asleep. Instead, you spend the whole night tossing and turning, and wind up feeling even worse in the morning. For this reason, as winter approaches, it’s crucial to figure out how to fall asleep when you’re sick so you never have to endure another brutal, sleepless night.
When your immune system is stretched too thin, it can start to feel like your entire body is thrown out of whack. You can practically feel your throat slowly clogging up and your nose getting all congested, especially as you’re just laying down and trying to fall asleep. When you’re feeling this sh*tty, the best thing you can do for yourself is come up with strategies that clear up your airways and help your immune system fight off infection and inflammatory on the spot.
But as I’m sure you know, it’s not just about falling asleep; it’s about staying asleep, too. Literally no one wants to wake up with a fully blocked-up nose at 2 a.m. Since getting plenty of shut-eye is one of the fastest ways to get better from an illness, it’s important that you find ways to fall asleep and stay asleep for the full night when you’re under the weather. Here are six foolproof ways to fall asleep when you’re sick, and stay snoozing the whole night through.
1. Get A Humidifier
Sometimes winter air can dry out your sinuses — in a bad way. Having sinuses that are too dry, ironically enough, leads to infection and illness
Using a humidifier will help loosen up the mucus in your sinuses without drying out your sinus cavities too much. Plus, it’ll help nudge that nasty cough out of your body that doesn’t seem to want to go away. Throw in a diffuser and some essential oils, and you’ll be good to go.
2. Prop Yourself Up
Although this may feel counterintuitive, sleeping with your head slightly higher than your body will help you breathe more easily when you’re sick.
Elevating your head (think an extra pillow, not sitting up at a 90-degree angle) will help relieve sinus pressure and allow you to breathe smoothly and comfortably throughout the night.
3. Gargle Salt Water
Gargling a concoction of warm water and salt will do wonders for a sore throat. The Mayo Clinic recommends a quarter-teaspoon of salt in a standard glass of warm water. Simply gargle it around like you would with mouthwash, then spit it out. This should soothe your throat enough to help you fall asleep.
4. Have Chicken Soup For Dinner
We’ve all heard it before: Chicken soup is good for the soul. But on a more specific level, chicken soup is good for the souls with common colds. Research shows that chicken soup is filled with anti-inflammatories that can help you fight off whatever scummy sickness you’re currently dealing with.
Pro tip: Canned soup works just as well as the stuff from scratch, so no need to whip up a fancy homemade batch when you’re already too sick to function.
5. Take A Piping Hot Shower
Take the steamiest shower that you can right before you get into bed. While you’re in the shower, take turns blowing through each of your nostrils to get all the mucus out. This might be kind of gross, but you’re in the shower anyways, everything’s getting cleaned, right?
Plus, I’d rather get that stuff out than know that it’s just chilling indefinitely in my system.
6. Try An Over-The-Counter Medication
Over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, and pain-relievers admittedly won’t shorten the duration of your flu, but they will relieve the severity of the symptoms, especially the ones that are ruining your beauty sleep. Just make sure that you read the fine print on the OTC medication you choose, as some “nighttime” medications can make you woozy for several hours, meaning it may not be ideal to chug cough syrup at 2 a.m. if you have a work meeting scheduled at 8 a.m. sharp.
Good shut-eye is rare when you’re not feeling well. Try these tips to get a good night’s sleep even if you’re feeling under the weather.
Whether you’re trying to recover from an illness or just be on your “A” game at work or school, sleep really works wonders. When you get a proper night’s rest, which is about seven to nine hours for most adults, the body can go deeper into repair mode. This process is even more important when you’re sick and low on energy. So use these seven tips for stocking up on sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and replenished.
Tips For Getting Good Sleep When You’re Sick
Go to bed as early as possible.
This may sound obvious, but the earlier you go to bed, the more sleep you will be able to get in a given night. Laying on the couch and Netflixing, while restful, doesn’t count. Set an early bedtime for yourself, peel yourself off the sofa and turn out the lights immediately once you’re settled into bed.
Take Theraflu to provide relief.
Cold and flu symptoms — from coughing and sneezing to a runny nose and sore throat — are uncomfortable and not conducive to falling asleep. Counteract these disruptions by taking an over the counter medicine like Theraflu, which gives you powerful symptom relief. Theraflu PowerPods Nighttime Severe Cold are perfect if you have a single-serve brewing machine. Simply brew the pod, which contains powerful ingredients like acetaminophen (pain reliever), and diphenhydramine HCl (an antihistamine and cough suppressant), which can both help ease your symptoms while you sleep.
Unplug at least an hour before hitting the hay.
If you’re double-tapping, scrolling and swiping right, you can’t expect to catch any zzz’s. Not only is your mind still working, but smartphone and tablet displays also emit disruptive blue light that can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps your body know it’s time to sleep. Put devices down at least an hour or more before bed. Best to leave them outside of your bedroom so you won’t be tempted to keep checking them.
Eat light before bed so you’re not tossing and turning.
If you have a heavy dinner too close to bedtime, your stomach may still be working to digest it, regardless of whether you’re ready to sleep or not. In order to prevent this from happening, stick to a light supper and eat on the earlier side.
Create an optimal environment for sleeping.
Your bedroom should be like a cave — dark and cool. When you are ready to turn in for the night, switch the lights completely off. It may even help to sleep on dark sheets. The room temperature should be somewhere in the 60s for restful slumber.
Use white noise to block out disruptions.
Certain sounds can help you get to sleep faster by drowning out disturbances and conversation around you. Download an app or use a music streaming service to play white noise while you sleep. See what works best for you — ocean sounds, rain, crickets chirping, etc.
Turn on a humidifier.
Dry air is a known eye, nose and throat irritant that can make cold and flu symptoms worse. With a humidifier, you can monitor the air quality in your bedroom and add moisture back into the air if it is lacking. That way, your sickness won’t get any worse, and you won’t lose additional sleep by having to deal with extra discomfort.
How to Sleep Better When You’re Sick
By now, you’ve probably heard (or worse, have had direct experience with) that this flu season is shaping up to be especially bad.
Nearly every state is reporting widespread flu activity, and this year’s vaccine is proving ineffective against the most widely circulating strains of the virus.
What’s more, there’s no way to instantly cure common winter ailments like the flu or common cold. But by getting plenty of rest (and drinking lots of fluids), you can help your immune system fight a nasty virus faster—and start feeling like your old self sooner.
Trouble is, sleeping soundly doesn’t usually come easy when you are sick. A stuffy nose and congestion can make it harder to breathe. A scratchy throat can mean frequently waking up, and chest congestion can give you uncontrollable coughing fits.
Achiness and pains also make it hard to get comfortable, even in a bed that’s fit for a king. And if you’re dealing with a fever and chills, you’re likely spending half the night throwing your blankets off in a sweat, only to yank them back on 10 minutes later as your teeth begin to chatter.
But even when the cold and flu cards are stacked against you, there are ways to get more of the rest that your body so desperately needs. Here are eight simple tips to ease discomfort and help you sleep better when you’re sick.
Eat Chicken Soup for Dinner
Turns out, mom was onto something when she’d serve you a piping hot bowl of chicken soup on sick days. The steam wafting up from your bowl is perfect for clearing your nasal passages, while the broth helps you stay hydrated.
But that’s not all. Research suggests that chicken soup actually contains anti-inflammatory effects that may aid in easing cold symptoms and help you bounce back faster. Though experts can’t say for sure how the whole thing works, they do know that canned soups seem to work as well as homemade—so you can reap the benefits even if mom isn’t around to make you a fresh batch.
Try a Saline Rinse for Congestion
Photo by Flickr user chiotsrun
To soothe a stuffy nose, skip the nasal spray (it can be drying as well as habit-forming) in favor of a simple saline rinse, which research suggests may be more effective at relieving congestion.
You can snort warm salt water (use natural sea salt, since table salt often contains irritating anti-caking agents) right from your hands, but a neti pot is easier and more pleasant to use: The teapot-shaped device is available at most drugstores, and makes it simple to pour a saline solution in one nostril and out the other.
Calm Your Cough
Salt water won’t just ease stuffiness—it can also offer temporary relief for a sore throat. Mayo Clinic experts recommend gargling eight ounces of warm water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Can’t stand the saltiness? Try decaffeinated black tea with a big spoonful of honey. Black tea contains theobromine, a compound whose cough-suppressing qualities outweigh codeine. The sweet stuff, on the other hand, helps to coat your throat and minimize that scratchy feeling. Like theobromine, research suggests that honey actually does a better job at easing nighttime cough than over-the-counter medications.
Take a Steamy Shower
Photo by Flickr user E M
A hot shower is more than just relaxing. The steam from the hot water is a natural, effective way to ease congestion, helping you breathe easier. (If you feel too weak to stand, just turn the shower on, shut the bathroom door, and sit in the room. You’ll still reap the benefits.)
To boost your shower’s feel-good power, add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil, which boasts antiviral properties and can also help break up mucus and ease joint pain.
Lavender essential oil is another great add-in, since the soothing scent is thought to promote relaxation. An added bonus: the drop in body temperature after you leave a warm bath or shower helps encourage sleep.
Consider Skipping Stimulating Meds
The active ingredients found in certain medications can make it harder to fall asleep. Cold pills and some cough medicines contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine, which can leave you feeling hyper. And though diphenhydramine, found in many cold and allergy meds, makes some people sleepy, it can actually have the opposite effect in others.
If you know that the ingredients don’t pose a problem for you, it’s OK to take them (always check with your doctor first, though). But if you’re not sure, it might be better to steer clear to avoid the potential for tossing and turning.
As for cold and flu meds specifically designed for sleep? Many contain alcohol, which tends to make your sleep more fragmented than restful. If you feel you need medication, experts recommend sticking to acetaminophen, which can help ease pain, headaches, and fever.
Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Photo by Flickr user lenhurtado
Sick or not, a great night’s rest depends on a comfortable environment.
To make your bedroom as sleep-friendly as possible, start by blocking out any distracting light. Close shades or curtains as tightly as possible. If others in your household are still awake and have lights on outside of your bedroom, place a towel at the door crack to keep hallway light from creeping in. Finally, power down any electronic devices (for alarm clocks, try turning them away from you.)
Quiet matters, too. Block distracting noises with earplugs if need be. You can also use a white noise machine to drown them out, or listen to calming music.
And since you’re probably alternating between feeling too hot and too cold, sleep on a comfortable mattress with layers of blankets, which allow for more temperature control than a single heavy comforter. Finally, set your bedroom’s thermostat to around 65˚. Though it might seem chilly, research suggests that cooler air helps you sleep better.
Keep Your Head Elevated
Even if you ease your nasal congestion before hitting the sack, it’ll likely return in a few hours’ time. To make that less likely, keep your head elevated while you snooze, which can help keep your nasal passages open. If two or three stacked pillows bother your neck, a wedge-style pillow may be more comfortable.
Stock Your Nightstand
Photo by Flickr user hillarystein
After actually managing to fall asleep, the last thing you want is to have to get out of bed in the middle of the night and start rummaging around for stuff to ease your symptoms.
Instead, keep a little feel-good kit on your nightstand. A big glass of water can ease coughing spasms, while a few drops of honey can help re-coat your throat (keep it in a small bowl with a spoon). Tissues can help with runny or stuffy noses.
Finally, have a book or magazine handy. If you wake up and are having trouble falling back asleep, a few minutes of light reading can help you start to feel drowsy again.
Practicing good sleep hygiene and knowing a few tricks for easing the unpleasant symptoms of colds and flus helps make sleep easier, which in turn helps you get back to normal sooner.
What helps you get better sleep when you’re sick? Any DIY remedies for getting more restful sleep when you’re under the weather?
Marygrace Taylor is a health and wellness writer based in Philadelphia. She’s covered healthy sleep and sleep hygiene for Amerisleep and other outlets since 2014. She also writes about diet and nutrition, women’s health, and fitness for outlets like Healthline, Men’s Health, and Prevention.
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Tough out your cold. Have plenty of chicken soup. Take zinc tablets the instant you feel a scratchy throat coming on. Eat a clove of raw garlic. (Ew.) With cold and flu season entering a fever pitch, you’re bound to hear countless tips like these on how to deal with an illness. But making sure you’re getting sleep when you’re sick is the one thing you absolutely must do to get over your illness.
Sleep Well Even When You’re Not
Getting restful, recuperative sleep is one of the best ways we can help our immune systems battle illness.
“Many of the molecules and substances that circulate in our body and also within cells overlap between immune function and sleep,” says David Rapoport, MD, director of the sleep medicine program at New York University School of Medicine. “So it’s not at all surprising that they affect each other.”
One way sleep and the immune system interact with one another is through fever. Our bodies use fever as a physiological defense to fight infection. During sleep, we can get a better fever response. That means it’s more efficient for our bodies to take on unwelcomed germs and viruses when we’re asleep.
More Sneeze Than Zzz’s
Get sick, get to bed, get better. Sounds simple enough. Having a cold or the flu is so annoying, you wish you could just sleep through the misery and wake up after you’re feeling better. But it’s not always easy to sleep when you’re coughing, can’t breathe and you have to blow your nose every half hour.
“Many cold and flu symptoms seem to get worse at night, and they can interfere with sleep just at the critical time when your body needs rest the most,” says sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D.
Great. So now you need to find a cure for lost sleep, too?
Don’t worry. The Better Sleep Council is here to help – through sickness and in health. We’ve compiled some proven tips and strategies to improve your chances of getting better sleep when you’re sick.
- Be in the right place and space. To fall asleep and stay asleep, you want dark, cool and quiet surroundings. Plus you want to make sure your mattress and pillows aren’t working against your best efforts to get some rest by robbing you of the comfort and support you need throughout the night. (Establishing a sleep-friendly environment is good advice regardless of how you’re feeling.)
- Sleep on the side (effects). Cold medicines can come with side effects that wreak havoc on sleep. Decongestants, in particular, are known to make many people feel jittery. Avoid taking these medications later in the day. If you’re still looking for relief from a stuffy nose when you’re ready to turn in, try a nasal spray decongestant, which is less likely to keep you up.
- Use gravity to your advantage. Believe it or not, much of the difficulty you experience in trying to sleep when you’re sick comes from simply lying down. Sinus pressure builds when your head is level with your body. Post-nasal drip collects in your throat, producing a cough. Use a foam wedge pillow as a prop for your upper body.
- Get steamy. Warm, moist air can help clear mucus from breathing passages and calm a cough. Set up a humidifier or vaporizer in your bedroom. Soak in a warm bath or take a hot shower before you retire. Or you can just linger over a hot cup of tea as you drink it to breathe in the vapors. (Chamomile, of course.)
- Mind your bedside manners. Congrats! You fell asleep … only to have a drippy nose or dry throat wake you up. Ugh. The faster you can respond, the faster you can get back to sleep mode. So keep a box of tissues, a glass of water and any other treatments at your bedside for easy access.
- Stop sharing. Sharing is not caring when you’re sick. If sickness is disturbing your sleep, you can be certain it’s doing the same for your bed partner. Consider using the guest room or the sofa until you feel better. This way at least one of you will be assured a good night’s rest. Plus you might avoid giving your cold to your loved one.
Under the weather? Learn how to sleep better to feel better with these six tips from @BetterSleepOrg. #BSCSleepTips
This blog provides general information about sleep and sleep products. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified heath care professional. This blog should not be construed as medical advice or used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care professional. This blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health or the health of others. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere on bettersleep.org. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
When you’re sick with the cold or flu, all you want to do is crawl into bed. But the cruel irony is that being sick can make it harder than ever to fall and stay asleep. Between nostrils that leak like a faucet, a hacking cough, and the inability to breathe through your nose, illness-induced distractions can force you to toss and turn all night.
So what’s a tired, snotty, coughing sick person to do? Implement the following five strategies to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Mind what you eat and drink.
The foods and beverages you consume in the hours leading up to bedtime can influence your ability to fall and stay asleep. Mind what you eat and drink by keeping the following tips in mind:
·Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This helps your nasal passages and throat stay hydrated, which can ease the intensity of a sore throat or stuffy nose. The more you reduce your congestion, the better you’ll sleep—and staying hydrated is one of the best tips around for taking the edge off congestion.
·Avoid drinking alcohol. While it might help you relax, alcohol is notorious for disrupting sleep throughout the night. It can also exacerbate inflammation in your sinuses, further inhibiting your chances of getting a comfortable night’s sleep.
·Drink some hot (decaf) tea or have a hot bowl of soup shortly before hitting the sheets. The steam from hot food or drinks can help soothe your nasal passages and thin mucus, which can make it easier for you to breathe and calm a runny nose, cough, and sore throat. When you can breathe better and you’re coughing less, you’re more likely to fall and stay asleep.
Cultivate a restful environment.
Practicing proper sleep hygiene is important any day of the week—but it becomes even more critical when you’re sick. The way you set up your sleep environment can have a major impact on your ability to fall and stay asleep. Embrace the following strategies for the best shot at restful sleep:
·Keep your bedroom cool. It may be tempting to crank the heat when you’re sick, but lower temperatures are more likely to trigger your body’s sleep response. Setting the thermostat anywhere between 60 and 70 degrees should help maintain a sleep-inducing temperature.
·Keep your bedroom dark. A darkened space signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Dim the lights in the hours leading up to bedtime, close the curtains over your bedroom windows, turn off any electronics that might otherwise emit light, and consider using a sleep mask if light is still making its way into your sleeping space.
·Make your bedroom as relaxing and inviting as possible. Play some soothing music, pull out your favorite comforter, clear away clutter, and do everything else you can to create a space that truly invites sleep.
Hit the showers before bedtime.
Taking a hot shower right before climbing into bed promises several benefits. The steam from the hot water helps loosen up mucus in your sinuses and chest and soothes your nasal passages and throat, which can help alleviate symptoms of congestion that might otherwise have you hacking all night. Additionally, the drop in body temperature that occurs after you step out of a hot shower helps signal to your brain that it’s time to hit the sheets.
Prop your head up.
When you’re sick, your sleep position makes a big difference on your ability to fall and stay asleep. If you’re suffering from a cold or the flu, then you’ll give yourself the best chance at sleep by propping your head up so it’s higher than the rest of your body. This helps alleviate some pressure on the sinuses and better allows mucus to drain through the nasal passages, which can make it easier to breathe. Use multiple pillows to create a wedge that lifts and supports your shoulders, neck, and head.
Use a humidifier in the bedroom.
Humidifiers introduce additional moisture into the air, which can be great for dry, scratchy airways. Not only can a humidifier help hydrate your nasal and throat passages, but it can also help loosen up mucus in your sinuses. This can make it easier to expel congestion so you don’t end up hacking all night long. Just make sure the humidifier is clean so it’s not releasing mold into the air.
Sleep is essential for recovering from illnesses such as the common cold or flu. So it’s important to do whatever you can to up your odds of falling and staying asleep. Armed with the preceding strategies, you’ll significantly increase your chances of sleeping soundly even when you’re sick.
How to Sleep When You Are Sick
When you’re sick, the one thing your body needs more than anything else is often the one thing that feels the most elusive – sleep. You want it. You need it. But the symptoms of your cold or flu seem to make it impossible.
According to WebMD sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, “It’s true that many cold and flu symptoms seem to get worse at night, and they can interfere with sleep just at the critical time when your body needs rest the most.” But, why is this the case and what can you do to increase your ability to sleep when you’re sick?
Why is it Difficult to Sleep When Sick?
Part of the problem is the congestion factor. You are forced to breathe through your mouth when sick, rather than breathing through your nose. The need to breathe through your mouth is the result of all the congestion that goes along with the sniffles of colds and flu — and when you lie down or recline, the congestion feels worse.
But there’s more to the story than that. You see, when you breathe through your mouth, you also experience dryness of the mouth and throat that leads to coughing, which also disrupts your sleep. What’s more, our body’s own attempts to heal itself with the release of specific cytokines (immune factors) actually serve to disrupt your sleep as well.
How do You Get that Much Needed Sleep?
You can do quite a few things that will maximize your efforts to sleep while minimizing your discomfort – even when you’re sick.
1. Eliminate Distractions – This means that you need to keep your room cool, dark, and quiet while you attempt to sleep. Turn off the lights, turn off electronic gadgets, and prepare your mind and body for a good night’s sleep.
2. Hydrate – Not only will drinking an adequate amount of water while sick help relieve the congestion you’re feeling, but it will also help rehydrate your body. This is especially important if you’re taking cold medications as many of them deliberately cause dehydration.
3. Get a Little Steamy – In the bathroom, that is. A hot steamy shower does double duty for helping you get more sleep. First, the steam serves to loosen the mucus that causes head and chest congestion making it possible for you to breathe a little easier. Second, the cooling impact of stepping out of your hot shower into the cooler room causes a cool down effect signaling your body that it’s time to sleep.
4. Elevate Your Head – Post-nasal drip and congestion is often worse when you lie flat. Elevating your head will relieve the pressure to the sinuses as well as the congestion so that you can breathe easier and be better able to get that elusive sleep.
Sleep is an essential part of the healing process. These tips will help you get the sleep you need. One note to remember before you begin clearing out your medicine cabinet in search of cold symptom relief is that many of the cures you take for colds serve to make sleep a little more difficult to come by. That’s why it’s best to skip cold medications after 6:00 p.m. and try natural remedies, like those mentioned above, instead.
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8 Cold and Flu Remedies for a Good Night’s Sleep
Unfortunately, getting quality sleep is sometimes easier said than done, especially when cold and flu symptoms include nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. These symptoms affect sleep the most because they cause coughing and make it hard to breathe, says Dr. Novey. “Bad muscle aches can also make people very uncomfortable,” he adds.
Cold and Flu Remedies to Help You Sleep
You don’t have to toss and turn all night when you’re battling a cold or the flu. Try these home remedies to get better sleep.
1. Hit the showers.
Novey recommends a hot shower or bath right before bed. “The body is ‘cold’ when you have a cold, and heat helps to energize, reduce symptoms, and relax muscles,” he explains. “This is one of the best ways to promote better sleep when you’re sick.”
2. Brew a cup of tea.
Hot, decaffeinated tea with a little fresh lemon juice can help reduce runny nose symptoms, Novey says. In particular, ginger tea can help ease muscle aches and generate a feeling of well-being, he says.
Novey’s recipe for a simple ginger tea: Thinly slice a 4-inch piece of fresh ginger root and boil for 30 minutes in a half-gallon of water. Add cinnamon bark and sugar or honey for added flavor. It’s best to sip this brew well before bedtime, as it may stimulate stomach acid and potentially cause heartburn, he says. If the tea upsets your stomach, try eating some toast or a few crackers with it to calm your tummy. Chamomile tea is also a good choice to help you relax.
3. Raise your head.
Oftentimes, nasal congestion is worse when you’re lying down, so elevating your head with extra pillows or a foam wedge may help alleviate some cold and flu symptoms, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
4. Open your airways.
Saline (salt and water) nasal sprays can help with a stuffy nose, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can also try adhesive decongestion nose strips, which widen nostrils from the outside to make breathing easier. If your nose becomes red and raw, a dab of petroleum jelly can soothe irritated skin. (Just avoid using petroleum jelly for more than a few days; it can lead to respiratory problems if used long-term.)
5. Moisten the air.
Placing a humidifier or vaporizer several feet from your bed can help ease nasal congestion by breaking up mucus so you can cough it up. Moist air can also relieve coughing itself. In a child’s bedroom, use only a cool-mist vaporizer, because warm-mist units can cause burns if younger children get too close, says the Mayo Clinic. Be sure to drain and clean the humidifier daily so it doesn’t get moldy.
6. Choose your medications carefully.
Some over-the-counter cold and flu remedies should be avoided at bedtime. Steer clear of decongestants because they contain ingredients that are stimulating and can interfere with sleep, says Novey. Antihistamines are sleep-inducing and better choices at night, he adds.
7. Set the stage for sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is conducive to quality sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests transforming your bedroom into a “cave” by making sure it’s quiet, dark, and a little on the cool side.
“If your mind is occupied with something else, it relaxes,” Novey says. He suggests turning on soothing music to help you drift off to sleep. You could also try practicing a relaxation technique like meditation or breathing exercises in bed to help you fall asleep.
“Let each cold or respiratory infection you catch be an inspiration to avoid them in the future,” Novey suggests. That means following basic health habits to keep your immune system strong, including eating well, exercising regularly, washing your hands often, and making sure you get quality sleep on a regular basis.
Sleep Your Colds and Flus Away!
100 years ago this year, our nation found itself in the midst of “the greatest medical holocaust in history,” as it was called at the time. It was the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918, so-called because King Alonzo XIII of Spain was the most notable person to come down with it. That flu outbreak ultimately claimed over 40 million lives, and remains the worst ever to hit the United States.
Thankfully, the current flu epidemic facing the U.S. isn’t as bad, but it has killed 37 children to date. And even if you’re not among the unfortunate families to get the flu, we all know that the common cold can also be really unpleasant. More importantly, they both can be very hard to sleep with!
Though fluids and bed rest remain the preferred treatment for colds and flus, getting that rest is tough if you don’t have the right tools. What can you and your family do to beat a cold or flu? Are they really any different? And how can you battle either by getting your best sleep? Read on.
So What Are Colds and Flus Anyway?
Both colds and flus are caused by viral infections that affect your nose and throat. They occur when one of these infections penetrates our regular layer of mucus in our noses that goes down to our lungs. That’s right – we have mucus in our upper respiratory system all the time. We usually just swallow it and don’t even notice.
Mucus serves as a barrier to protect us from infections. When the body does get infected, it needs time to fight the illness without having to worry about more germs getting through. To do that it creates more mucus to block the invaders off, which unfortunately blocks off our nasal passages too. This is what creates the runny nose and congestions we all know when we get colds or flus. And it’s also why they can be such a nuisance – breathing can be difficult when you sleep as it is. Sleeping with extra mucus all up in your sinuses can be an absolute nightmare!
Quick Facts about Colds and Flus
As the old wives’ tale goes, “feed a cold and starve a fever.” But if you’re not an old wife, you may be looking for a little more than that. (And that’s not great advice anyway. Again, read on.) Since the key to solving any problem is to define it first, let’s get to know the enemy a bit better. Here are some interesting facts about these two potentially dangerous ailments to get you ready to fight back and sleep your cold or flu away!
- The flu specifically come from the influenza virus, while the common cold comes from any number of different viruses that have the ability to cause it. Both affect the nose and throat, but the flu affects the lungs too.
- Though symptoms of a cold and flu are similar, runny or stuffy noses are more common with colds. Fevers are more common with flus, and flu symptoms are generally more intense. (Phlegm, the substance you may cough up, is most common with bronchitis or pneumonia, which a flu can turn into. But that’s a topic for another blog!)
- Colds rarely lead to hospitalizations or more serious consequences, while flus can be fatal. If you think you have a serious flu, getting a professional diagnosis is crucial. This should be done through medical testing within the first few days to catch it in time!
- Starving colds or flus is not healthy. The body gets the energy it needs to fight illness from food, so it’s actually helpful to get as many healthy calories as you can tolerate (illness often leads to vomiting and loss of appetite) when you have a cold or the flu.
- Fluids are also vitally important, both for keeping your body nourished during its internal battle and to prevent dehydration from the flu. The act of washing your hands frequently when fluids make you go to the bathroom also eliminates dead germs and flushes out your system.
- Garlic, beef, sweet potatoes, turmeric, dark leafy greens, wild salmon, and chicken soup are the best foods to eat while battling colds or flus.
So with both fluids and diet out of the way, that leaves us with the all-important second recommendation by most doctors: bed rest. Let’s look at why bed rest is so important to recovering from a cold or the flu.
The Benefits of Bed Rest
Well the obvious reason not to be out and about when you’re sick is to avoid spreading your illness to everyone you meet! More than that though, bed rest gives your body a break from doing anything else besides recovering. One of the reasons for the original “starving” recommendation was because 16th Century doctors believed that forcing your body to digest food took away from the energy it needed to fight the flu. (Apparently they didn’t totally get the connection between food and energy back then.)
Nowadays we know better, and understand that while you’re lying down, the blood flowing through your body doesn’t have to fight gravity. This allows it to easily circulate throughout your body and fight the illness. Also, strenuous activities like working or even exercising can cause your body to release stress hormones. These hormones are known to affect the function of white blood cells, which are what your body uses to fight back. Long story short, you’re better off in bed when you have a cold or the flu.
How to Get Your Best Sleep When You Have a Cold or the Flu
So by this point, it should be clear that fluids and bed rest are – and probably always will be – the best remedy for a cold or the flu. That said, if you’re one of the unlucky ones to have gotten them this year, here are ten ways to speed up your recovery:
Use a gadget: The basic principle of all cold and flu remedies is to try to breathe as well as you possibly can. This is because if you remember, the actual fighting of the infection comes from your body – that’s why it creates mucus. By clogging you up, no new infections get through, and the body can do its thing. Only one problem with this plan: you still have to breathe!
That’s why one way to sleep better with a cold is to use a gadget that helps make breathing easier. A humidifier or a vaporizer puts moisture into the air, and can help with this process. Not only will they create steam that naturally loosens you up (more on this shortly), but they’ll soothe your irritated nose and throat, making it easier to sleep.
Drink or eat something hot: If fluids and bed rest are what the doctor ordered, it should be obvious why soup or tea are good options for sleeping and speeding up recovery. Again, the steam they create will help open your sinuses and soothe your throat. Tea with honey is especially soothing, and warm milk before bed is a tried and true method of getting your best sleep. And it’s even more so when you’re sick.
Make sure you read labels on cold and flu remedies: Often people’s first impulse when they catch something, over-the-counter cold remedies can be tricky if you’re not careful. A decongestant, for example, may keep you awake, while an antihistamine will make you drowsy. Many cold remedies claim to treat everything, and most of these can be too harsh for children. What to do?
Remember that colds and flus are different, so it’s easier if you know what you have. A doctor might prescribe something that targets your exact illness, like an antibiotic. If that’s not in your budget, just keep track of your symptoms and try to pick medicines that specifically treat whatever your problems are. If you don’t have a fever, you can get something just for runny nose. If you have a persistent cough, a simple cough syrup may do. Above all else, read the medication’s label. No need to use a bazooka if you just need a flyswatter!
Gargle: If you have a sore throat, gargling with warm salt water before bed should loosen it up some and help you get to sleep. Be careful though! If sore throat is your only real symptom (meaning no congestion or sneezing), you likely have the flu. If this leads to a fever that lasts for more than two days, see a doctor. You may have a strep infection or worse.
Use a salve for coughs: You can also rub a menthol salve over your throat and chest to ease any cough you might have. As long as you don’t eat it, put it inside your nose, or use it for children under two years old, it can be helpful.
Don’t drink alcohol: While it is true that alcohol makes you drowsy, it’s also true that it dries you out. It swells your sinuses more too, can react badly with cold and flu medicines, and most importantly, wakes you up in the middle of the night. Use it to celebrate once you’re well, not to get to sleep when you’re not.
Sleep alone: Though a Lull mattress allows you to get in and out of bed without disturbing your partner, it doesn’t cancel noise. If you want to keep sleeping with someone else, it’s best not to cough, blow your nose, or give them what you’ve got in bed.
Use nasal strips: Easier on your neck than propping your head up with pillows, nasal strips open your passageway to make breathing easier. Again, the more air you can get to breathe with, the less bothersome all that extra mucus will be.
Maintain your usual sleep schedule: The classics always work! Though you may be tempted to sleep in more or go to bed too early, this can throw you off and make it difficult to sleep through the night when you need to. Not only will eating and sleeping as usual help you recover, but it can prevent your next cold too. In one study, people getting less than eight hours of sleep nightly were three times more likely to catch colds and flus. As long as you limit your activity and maybe nap briefly throughout the day, you should be able to get well without ruining your regular sleep.
Make sure you have the best mattress: The benefits of having a high quality mattress are well-documented. Generally speaking, a premium gel-infused memory foam mattress like the ones offered by Lull are designed to relieve pressure and maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature. This is crucial if you’re dealing with added aches and pains or burning up with fever. You can order this online mattress from the web, and it sets itself up when it arrives. Hence its nickname of “a bed in a box.” If you’re sick, you don’t need the stress of putting a box spring together. You want to get to sleep as soon as you can, and the Lull mattress allows you to do that.
Bottom line, having a cold or the flu is no joke! And if every doctor agrees that fluids and bed rest are the way to go, why fight centuries of medical knowledge? Clear out your sinuses with these tips, pop onto your best mattress and feel better. You’ll thank us in the morning!
Breus agrees, but warns us not to simply prop up our head with an extra pillow. “This leaves the neck area unsupported, allowing your chin to drop down toward the chest and actually restrict breathing,” he says.
His solution: replace your pillow with a foam bed wedge. If that’s not possible, stack your pillows so that you create a wedge, with at least some lift under your shoulders, increasing elevation as you go towards your head.
“The idea here is to lift the whole upper part of your body and make it easier for nasal passages to drain and make it easier to breathe,” he says.
What can also help: Using a humidifier or vaporizer to keep the air in your sleeping environment moist, which can also make breathing easier and calm a cough. But Popovich cautions to make certain you drain and clean it thoroughly every night. “Otherwise you could end up putting some dangerous bacteria into the air,” he says.
You can also give yourself a bedtime steam treatment right in your own bathroom. Experts say before you’re ready to turn in, turn on the hot water in your shower full blast, shut the bathroom door, sit on a chair or on the toilet seat, and take in the steam. “You don’t want to get wet, you just want to allow the steam to loosen congestion and hydrate your nasal and throat passages,” says Zafarlofti. After 10 minutes or so, wrap up in something warm — like a terrycloth or flannel bathrobe — and then hop into bed.
6 More Ways to Sleep Better With a Cold
If you’re still having problems sleeping during your cold or flu, the experts WebMD talked to offer six more tips that might help you feel better and get a better night’s rest.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day. Popovich says this will help maintain hydration in the nasal passages and throat, which in turn will help you feel more comfortable. If your liquids include fruit juices high in vitamin C, you’ll also get a nutritional boost.
- Drink a cup of warm, caffeine-free liquid before bedtime: herbal tea and honey, honey and warm water, decaffeinated coffee, or clear broth. This can open nasal passages, soothe a sore throat, and help you sleep.
- Suck on hard candy before bedtime to moisten the throat, and keep a water bottle in easy reach to help quell a nighttime coughing spell.
- If you must take a medicine for symptoms, opt for single products — such as a pain reliever, a decongestant, or a cough medicine — rather than a combination cold pill. Popovich says less is more, and many cold remedies have more than you need.
- Read the labels of any medicines you do take, and make certain there is no crossover in ingredients. For example, if your multi-symptom pill also contains acetaminophen, you won’t want to take an extra for pain or fever.
- Don’t be tempted to take a sleeping pill when you have a cold or flu, even if you take them regularly. Thorpy says a sleeping pill can make it harder to get up in the morning. If you are using sleeping pills regularly, never take them with any cold medicines, particularly those containing alcohol.
SOURCES: Michael Breus, PhD, director, The Sleep Doctor web site. Edwin Trayner, MD, director, sleep disorders center, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Boston; assistant professor, Tufts University School of Medicine. Nicholas Popovich, PhD, professor, pharmacy administration, department head, University of Chicago at Illinois College of Pharmacy. Michael Thorpy, MD, director, Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, Montefiore Medical Center, and professor of neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director, Institute for Sleep-Wake Disorders, and The Breath and Lung Institute, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.
Reviewed on November 14, 2007
The Best Cold Medicines for Every Symptom
Chilly weather and shorter days lead to festivities and family time…but also cold and flu season. Don’t just tough it out when the cold virus catches you off guard. There are plenty of options to alleviate your worst symptoms, from aches and pains to stubborn coughs.
Whether you like all-natural remedies or want to decimate the virus with the best multi-symptom relief your pharmacy offers, there are plenty of options you can pick up at CVS, Walgreens, Target, the grocery store, or have delivered via Amazon. Here, MDs, naturopathic and osteopathic doctors, and pharmacists share their take on the best approach to prevent and treat colds. You’ll be back on your feet, at the office, and in the gym in no time. (See: Should You Work Out While Sick?)
Best Natural Cough Suppressant: Honey
Best OTC Cough Suppressant: Dextromethorphan
- Best Multi-Symptom OTC Cold Medicine: CVS Health Non-Drowsy Daytime & Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Relief Combo Pack
Best On-the-Go Defense: Emergen-C
Best Symptom Shortener: Elderberry Syrup
Best Natural Immune-Booster: Goop Perfect Attendance Elderberry Chews
Best Nasal Spray Decongestant: CVS Health Nasal Spray
Best Drinkable Symptom Relief: Theraflu PowerPods and Theraflu Hot Liquid Powders
Best Homeopathic Treatment: Oscillococcinum
Best Pain and Fever Relief: Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
Best Non-Medicine Treatment: Humidifier
Best Natural Cough Suppressant: Honey
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Multiple doctors suggested honey as their favorite cold remedy. That’s right! Non-medicated, straight-up-from-bees, HONEY.
Habib Sadeghi, D.O. agrees that honey is the move when it comes to cold treatment. “Many people have used honey instead of over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressants for years, swearing it works better,” says Dr. Sadeghi. Research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that honey works better than any OTC cough suppressant. In the study, children suffering from upper respiratory infections who received honey experienced greater relief of symptoms and better quality of sleep than those who received a honey-flavored OTC cough syrup.
In addition to being a cough suppressant, Dr. Sadeghi likes this treatment because “it’s a healthy, whole food that contains antimicrobial properties that may help fight the infection itself, so it’s not just treating symptoms. And, of course, it tastes good, too.”
Pharmacist Peace Uche, Pharm.D, recommends honey as well. “The common cold is self-limiting, meaning that the healthy body will clear it eventually without necessary treatment,” says Uche. “My favorite OTC remedy for the common cold is hot water with lemon and honey. The fluids hydrate and soothe the sore throat and honey, in particular, reduces cough.”
Any honey will do, but level-up the benefits by reaching for Manuka honey—supercharged honey from the Manuka plant in New Zealand, with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Naturopathic doctor Heather Tynan, N.D., at Evergreen Naturopathic suggests checking out Manuka Doctor 24+, specifically, as it’s what she personally uses. “There are some rules of thumb when it comes to choosing manuka,” she said. Anything with a high UMF (Unique Manuka Fatcor) or MGO (methylglyoxal)—both chemical markers part of the manuka honey grading system—will have medicinal benefits, she says. “Make sure to choose a genuine New Zealand brand whose products have been certified for their UMF/MGO activity.” (Related: Are the Health Claims About Manuka Honey As Amazing As They Seem?)
Buy It, Manuka Doctor 24+, $20, amazon.com
Best OTC Cough Suppressant: Dextromethorphan
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Honey isn’t cutting it for you? You can try an OTC cough suppressant as well—just talk to your pharmacist first, as it may interact with any medications you’re taking. “If you have a cough due to a common cold, use dextromethorphan,” says Alex Luli, Pharm.D, a board-certified ambulatory care pharmacist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Diego. “Look for brand names like Delsym; it also comes in many dosage forms and is common in multi-ingredient products ,” says Luli. “I usually recommend single-ingredient products over multi-ingredient products because multi-ingredient products may provide extra medications that aren’t necessary for the symptoms a patient is experiencing and just adds to the risk of side effects.”
Data is mixed on how well dextromethorphan works for relieving cough, but it has a wide margin of safety, he says, meaning it’s pretty low-risk. Just “avoid dextromethorphan if you’re taking medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO-I) as this could cause an interaction resulting in too much serotonin (a neurotransmitter in the brain).”
Buy It, ValuMeds Dextromethorphan, $12, amazon.com
Best Multi-Symptom OTC Cold Medicine: CVS Health Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Relief Combo Pack
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When you want to kill lots of birds with one stone, this store-brand version of DayQuil and NyQuil is what you want. (Think: Affordable and effective!) “Cold symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, and aches respond well to OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen, a key ingredient in this multi-symptom combo pack,” said Papatya Tankut, R.PH. and vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Health. ” also includes a cough suppressant and nasal decongestant for multi-symptom relief. Take a daytime pill for non-drowsy relief and a nighttime pill with doxylamine succinate to help you sleep better with a cold.”
Being sick doesn’t have to kill your wallet either. It’s a good idea to “go for cheap generics rather than expensive brand names,” because they’re just as effective and will save you money, says Bertie Bregman, M.D., founder of Qwell, a New York City-based online medical care service.
Buy It, CVS Health Non-Drowsy Daytime & Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Relief Combo Pack, $11+, cvs.com
Best On-the-Go Defense: Emergen-C
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“One of the most important things you can do when you’re under the weather is to give your body enough fluids, electrolytes, and all-important vitamins and nutrients,” said Tynan. Your body uses them in greater quantities when you’re sick, and the extra dose helps you recover, she says. Emergen-C is great to have with you on your commute, in the office, or on a plane so you can quickly mix it with water and sip your way to symptom relief (and a fortified immune system). (Related: Does Emergen-C Actually Work?)
Buy It, Emergen-C Vitamin C, $6, cvs.com
Best Symptom Shortener: Elderberry Syrup
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Elderberry is a plant that has been used all over the world in different types of medicine, dating back to ancient Egypt (and perhaps earlier). It’s natural ability to support the immune system is what led Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” to call the elder tree his “medicine chest”. The elder tree produces elderflower and then elderberry, also known as Sambucus.
“Try the anti-viral-slash-immune-supporting superstar: elderberry syrup,” said Tynan. “Make on your own at home or choose a brand with as little extras (like fake colors or preservatives) added as possible. A great one is Black Elderberry Syrup by Gaia.” (Buy It, $21; amazon.com)
“I’d recommend Sambucol elderberry syrup because elderberry is clinically proven to cut the duration of colds,” agrees Walgreens pharmacy manager Danielle R. Plummer, Pharm.D. But she’s emphatic that syrup is the way to go when you have a cold—not chews. “Be careful that there are many variations of Sambucol products,” she said. “If a patient has an active virus, then take the syrup, which has 3.8 grams of elderberry extract, not the homeopathic melts or preventive gummies. There are also formulations in lower strength for children and sugar-free for diabetics.”
Buy It, Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup, $15, walgreens.com
Best Natural Immune Booster: Goop Perfect Attendance Elderberry Chews
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Truth time: I had the chance to try these earlier in the year, and they seriously helped prevent an oncoming cold while traveling. These candy-like chewables use elderberry extract (for all of the aforementioned reasons) to help curtail the onslaught of cold symptoms and fortify the immune system. The elderberry is backed up by a fermented yeast, which has been shown to help the immune system as well. They’re seriously delicious to boot.
Buy It, Perfect Attendance Chews, $30+, goop.com
Best Nasal Spray Decongestant: CVS Health Nasal Spray
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Why nasal spray? “Nasal sprays are a great decongestant option for those who can’t swallow pills or don’t like cough syrups,” says Tankut. This one, in particular, provides a whopping 12 hours of congestion relief, which makes your life significantly easier when fighting a cold virus. The active ingredient, Oxymetazoline HCl, is the same as you’d find in a brand-name decongestant like Afrin—but now you’ll have more $$$ to spend on ordering ramen.
Buy It, CVS Health Nasal Spray, $6, cvs.com
Best Drinkable Symptom Relief: Theraflu PowerPods
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The K-cup style pods of Theraflu are kind of like a hot Emergen-C and a cold-and-flu tea mixed with your favorite multi-symptom relief medicine. Plus, you just pop it into your Keurig or single-serve coffee machine and boom: nectar of the cold-and-flu-relief gods. Plus, extra fluids and rest are v important while you’re overcoming a cold, and the Theraflu pods and powders fit the bill, according to pharmacist Peter Van Zile, Pharm.D., R.Ph., medical affairs principal scientist at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. (Related: Flu Symptoms Everyone Should Be Aware of as Flu Season Approaches)
“To help treat cold and flu symptoms, using an over-the-counter remedy like Theraflu hot liquid powders can provide relief while you recover,” he said. If you don’t have a machine to use the PowerPods, check out the powder mix and make yourself a hot cup of cold treatment.
Buy It, Theraflu PowerPods, $12, target.com
Best Homeopathic Treatment: Oscillococcinum
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If you’ve traveled abroad (particularly in France) or visited a natural market, you’ve probably seen Oscillococcinum, which is made from wild duck heart and liver (so, vegans, skip ahead). It comes in little plastic vials containing tiny little pellets that dissolve under your tongue and can be found anywhere from a Parisian pharmacy to a natural market to Target. It’s “now available at most grocery stores in the pharmacy section,” says Tynan. Though this is mostly used for the flu, it may seriously curb your cold symptoms and duration of your illness. It’s best taken “within 24 to 48 hours,” of symptom onset for optimal results, but “if you’ve missed the window, it’s still completely safe to try.” This homeopathic remedy has been used for decades but has little clinical research to back it up. That said, a small study at Sloane Kettering reported that “Oscillococcinum probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting with influenza symptoms.”
Buy It, Osciollococcinum, $27, target.com
Best Pain and Fever Relief: Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
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“Must-haves are acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for fever and sore throats,” says pharmacist Vinny Polito, pharmacy director at Centura Health. “Never take ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve) on an empty stomach or you may end up with a stomach bleed.” (Related: Is It Dangerous to Take Expired Medicine?)
Again, you don’t need anything super fancy for a cold. “Most new formulations of over-the-counter medicines are just re-brands of age-old cheap generic medications; look at the ingredients, not the brand name.” Oh, and here’s a pro tip from Polito: “The pharmacist and pharmacy student behind the counter get a lot of joy out of helping you find the right medicines for your symptoms—just ask us! It’s free advice!”
Buy It, Ibuprofen, $4, cvs.com
Best Non-Medicine Treatment: Humidifier
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A humidifier might be your first line of defense before getting to the medicine counter. “A humidifier or vaporizer adds moisture to the air you breathe to help moisten your airways and loosen mucus, soothing cold symptoms like congestion, cough, and sore throat,” says Tankut. “For an easy alternative to a humidifier, boost a steamy hot shower with Lavender Scented Effervescent Vapor Tablets (Buy It, $5, cvs.com) for a similar soothing effect.” You’d put one of these on the shower floor and let the steam from the hot water create a soothing vapor to inhale. Aromatherapy and cold-treatment in one. (Related: 5 Aromatherapy Benefits That Will Change Your Life)
Luli agreed that a humidifier is one of the best ways to treat cold symptoms before opting for medication. “For most cough and cold symptoms, nonpharmacologic therapies may be beneficial and are relatively safe,” said Luli. “These include non-medicated lozenges, humidifiers, and hydration. I almost always remind patients to at least give these interventions a go before trying medication.”
Buy It, TaoTronics Humidifier, buy it, $65, amazon.com
- By Dominique Michelle Astorino