At the time of writing this, I am bundled up in bed with blankets and my favorite whale-print pajama pants from Primark, coughing my way through a cold my boyfriend brought home from work. As someone with chronic illness, you’d think I’d get used to this — but nope! I still hate being sick as much as the next person.
Thanks to my IBS and mental illness, my immune system is not as strong as it used to be. Because I’m so stubborn about being sick, I’ve devoted a lot of time to researching ways to prevent illness and get over a cold faster. (Here’s a quick tip we could all stand to follow: WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Thank you.)
While sick, I’ve done everything from sip on unpalatable teas made from ginger root and echinacea to sweating out fevers in a hot bath, all in an attempt to…. well, not be sick anymore! Like Thomas Edison, I’ve learned a lot of ways not to make a lightbulb (so to speak) — but I’ve also discovered a couple of things that really do work.
Here are my quick tips for getting over a cold faster, so you can get back to being your amazing self ASAP. Granted, I am not a doctor — so please don’t take my at-home advice as gospel. Consult your PCP anytime you’re sick to make sure you’re getting the care you need, inside and outside the doctor’s office!
1. Take your vitamins (& minerals)
It’s an old wives’ tale that taking vitamin C will prevent colds. Vitamin C supplements can, however, reduce the duration of a cold by up to 8%! The same goes for zinc; my future-doctor boyfriend will soon publish a literature review on the benefits of zinc, stating that taking zinc reduces the duration and severity of the common cold.
Try me: Nature Made Vitamin C Gummies, 250 mg | $8, Amazon
2. Stay hydrated (with water)
Hydration is key! Your body loses plenty of water when you’re down with the common cold: mucus production, fevers and even cold medicine can dehydrate you. Sometimes, you just need a ginger ale when you’re sick — and that’s okay! But don’t forget that the best drink for hydration is good old-fashioned water. Sip it slowly to avoid over-hydration — because yes, that is a thing.
Try me: Stainless Steel Tumbler with Straw in Forever Busy | $28, ban.do
3. Eat the rainbow
While taking vitamin and mineral supplements might help your cold, the best way to get the antioxidants your body needs is still regular fruits and veggies. These antioxidants support a healthy immune system, making them a great food to eat when sick. Try whipping up a smoothie full of healthy fruits, greens and ice to soothe a sore throat. Oh, and your mama’s chicken soup? Also a strong choice, since it’s effective both in hydrating and nourishing the body. (Not to mention, it’s delicious!)
Try me: Smoothielicious by Jenna Helwig | $6, Amazon
4. Listen to your body
One mistake I made for years when growing up was pushing myself too hard when sick — partly because I was scarcely allowed to stay home from school, and partly because of my perfectionistic, overachieving nature. Now, I know better. When your body becomes susceptible to illness, usually that’s because you’re already stressed, overworked and under-slept. I know how difficult it can be to use a precious day off on a silly cold, but trust me when I say that you will get better faster if you give yourself the time you need to recover. Self-care is key — so go ahead: make a cuppa tea, sit down with your favorite book and just RELAX!
Try me: Caramel Apple Tea Bags | $12, Republic of Tea
5. Supplement with herbal remedies
While I can’t speak to the science behind them, some people swear by herbal remedies to ward off colds. The most popular herbal remedy is echinacea, which can be found in everything from tea to cough drops these days. Add a little bit of raw honey, which has immune-boosting properties of its own, to some tea, or try a soothing throat drop made from honey and supercharged with vitamins and minerals.
Try me: 96% Honey Cough Soothers & Immune Support | $8, Grove Collaborative
6. Don’t be ashamed to take meds
I understand wanting to tough it through a cold without taking medication — but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that toughing it out only hurts YOU. I was raised to use painkillers as sparingly as possible, and wouldn’t even take them for a headache most of the time. While I would never advocate for popping pills like Tic-Tacs, if there’s ever a time to rely on painkillers or fever-relievers, it’s when your entire body aches with a 101-degree fever. Don’t be ashamed of needing a little help from modern medicine to get by!
The one warning I’d like to add, since I know many of you guys follow me for my mental health and chronic illness posts, is that not all medications mix well with OTC cold remedies. For one thing, I learned the hard way that Mucinex DM (dextromethorphan) can have an unpleasant, if not dangerous, interaction with antidepressants called serotonin syndrome. For me, that meant uncontrollable shaking and vomiting until the drug was out of my system — but I was lucky in that I had a mild case, since some people have actually died from it. So, always consult your doctor before taking any OTC meds if you’re on any kind of oral medication!
Try me: Tylenol Sinus Severe | $6, Target