If you don’t fast-forward through commercials, you’ve seen this one from Zicam: A
pretty woman daintily sneezes into her elbow when out of nowhere a snot-nosed
monster of a cold is chasing her. “That first sneeze. You have a pre-cold,” the
voiceover says. She runs. He corners her in a dark alley. She panics.
You’ve been there. Adults average two to four colds a year,
and the typical upper respiratory infection takes up to 10 days to get over.
But that first sniffle, throat tickle, or cough doesn’t have to be all doom and
gloom. In this case, a heroic box of Zicam saved the day, of course, flattening
Snot-Nose like a semi.
But it turns out there are other cold-fighting heroes out
there, too. You could ...
1. Pop zinc. Research shows
taking zinc (the active ingredient in Zicam) lozenges, tablets, or syrup within
a day of your first symptoms can reduce both their severity and duration.
Taking a supplement regularly can help, too. (Click here to find out the Top 10
Supplements for Men.)
2. Find zen. “When you’re under stress, your immune system
ends up under-reacting to viral and bacterial infections,” says Sandra Adamson
Fryhofer, M.D., internist and past president of the American College of
Physicians. Perhaps that’s why University of Wisconsin researchers found
mindfulness meditation training reduced the incidence, duration, and severity
of a cold by 35 to 60 percent.
3. Make like Grandpa and gargle. Evidence shows gargling
with water a few times a day during cold and flu season may also help flush out
4. Jack up your H2O intake. “Hydration helps keep your nasal
passages moist, so they can actually get rid of little particles from
bacteria,” Dr. Fryhofer says.
5. Pop a probiotic. In a recent study, probiotic supplements
shortened the duration of a cold from 6 days to 4, made symptoms a third less
severe, and halved the number of days subjects stayed home. Look for the
strains LGG and BB12.
6. Try an herbal remedy. There’s evidence that the
little-known herb Pelargonium sidoides
can reduce a cold’s severity and duration. Like zinc, these drops should be
taken at the first signs of sniffles. Look for the brand name Umcka
in the homeopathic aisle.
7. Hop on the D train. It seems like no coincidence that
colds hit hardest when the sun is lowest. And some research has supported 800
to 1000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for adults during cold season to reduce risk and
8. Get garlic breath. Used as a home remedy for its supposed
antimicrobial and antiviral superpowers, garlic hasn’t been formally studied
much. However, some evidence shows it may ward off colds. Try a supplement or
crush a clove with dinner.
9. Pause your workout. Regular moderate exercise is best for
warding off bugs, research shows. But once you’ve caught a cold, take a rest.
“You just need to listen to your body,” Dr. Fryhofer says. “Don’t try to push
10. Head to bed. Since sleep boosts immune function, that
“pre-cold” may be a good indicator that you haven’t been getting enough lately.
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept less than 7 hours a night were three times
more susceptible to colds than those who slept 8 or more hours per night.