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What helps with a cold?
Cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever - what to do about colds? This article provides information on causes, symptoms, duration, treatment and home remedies for colds. It is important to clarify first whether it is a real virus flu (influenza) or a flu-like infection, ie the "simple cold". Influenza can be very dangerous for some people and should definitely be treated by a doctor, while a flu-like infection usually runs without complications and the healing can be very well supported by proven home remedies. This post is dedicated to the flu-like infection.
Quick help for colds
The recovery of a cold can be very well supported by strengthening the immune system. This includes a lot of warmth, sleep and above all rest. Stress should be avoided as much as possible. Hot chicken soups and teas can also help relieve the discomfort. In general, a lot should be drunk. Cold calf wraps can work in fever. If your legs or hands are cold, do not do so. Hot water bottles and electric blankets provide the necessary warmth and relaxation. Physical activity and exertion should be avoided entirely during the infection. Gargling with onion juice has proven itself as a home remedy for a sore throat. Steam inhalation with sage or thyme as well as nasal irrigation can help against colds.
Flu infection - a brief overview
With a flu infection, the symptoms usually creep in slowly. It often starts with a scratchy throat or a dull feeling in the head. Little by little, other symptoms come on or existing ones get worse. With influenza, however, the symptoms appear suddenly and violently within a few hours. Affected people should then see a doctor. In contrast, a "simple" cold is in most cases rather unproblematic. As a rule, the symptoms subside within a week, especially if the naturopath supports self-treatment of the common cold. Here is a brief summary of the clinical picture:
- definition: In contrast to "real virus flu" (influenza), the term "flu infection" (popularly known as "cold") is used to summarize various febrile general illnesses that are mostly caused by viruses.
- Possible symptoms: Runny nose, cough, hoarseness, sore throat, fever, diarrhea or constipation, nausea and vomiting, headache, body aches, weakness.
- causes: Infection with viruses, for example of the Adeno, Rhino, Parainfluenza, Coxsackie or RS type. An immune system weakened by cold can favor an infection (hence the name "cold"). Stress, lack of sleep and other diseases can also increase the risk of infection.
- Duration: With an uncomplicated course, the symptoms subside after three to seven days. All complaints should be cured after two weeks at the latest (deviations are possible in some cases).
- therapy: In most cases, only rest is prescribed. The healing process can be supported by numerous home remedies for cold symptoms.
How do you catch a cold?
A cold can spread through droplet infection. When a sick person sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets of saliva are released into the air that contain pathogens. If these droplets are inhaled by other people, the pathogen gets into their organism. There is also a high risk of infection through the hands, since many sick people sneeze into their hands or get pathogens when they blow their noses. When you shake hands or use a lot of busy surfaces such as door handles, banisters or grab bars in public transport, pathogens can be transmitted.
Influenza or flu infection - where are the differences?
The terms "flu", "flu infection" and "cold" can be a little confusing. The doctor often speaks of a flu infection. This means the more popular term “cold”. A cold and a flu infection are the same thing. Flu (medical influenza), on the other hand, is another disease that can have more dangerous consequences.
The real flu (influenza) is a serious illness that can be life-threatening for some groups of people. Influenza should always be observed by a doctor. In winter 2017/2018, a flu wave caused more than 300,000 infections and around 1,000 deaths.
How do you know if you have a cold or a real flu? The difference is not always clear because the symptoms are similar. With influenza, the symptoms usually appear suddenly and with full force. In addition, symptoms such as fatigue and exhaustion are usually more intense. The fever often rises and can sometimes be over 40 degrees Celsius.
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When should you go to the doctor for colds?
In many cases, medical attention is not required for a common cold. Most of the time, however, the family doctor is needed for the employer because of the sick leave. However, if complications arise, medical advice is always required. Shortness of breath as a result of a cold can indicate pneumonia. Even high fever above 39 degrees Celsius should be clarified by a doctor. In case of severe sore throat or ear pain, a middle ear infection or tonsillitis may have joined the flu infection. In addition, a doctor should be consulted if the symptoms have not improved after a week and those affected suffer from constant tiredness and exhaustion. If children or infants are affected, the following counts: it is better to see the doctor too soon than too late.
Diagnosis - what does the doctor do?
In a doctor-patient consultation, the possible causes are first narrowed down. Depending on the symptoms, the doctor then examines the mouth, ears and lungs. If necessary, he scans areas on the neck and face to reveal any lymph node swellings or sinus infections. As a rule, no further tests or examinations are carried out unless there is suspicion of additional diseases such as pneumonia or a streptococcal infection.
How long does a flu infection last?
A common rule of thumb is: "A cold comes for three days, stays for three days and lasts for three days". With this claim, the popular saying is usually correct, because a cold lasts an average of eight to ten days. This largely depends on the pathogen involved and how severely the affected person's immune system is weakened. In the first few days, most of those affected initially feel an itch in the throat, which is often accompanied by a cough. In the following days, the symptoms usually increase and there are occasional colds, headaches, body aches and mild fever. After a few days, the symptoms subside until they finally go away completely.
Two to four colds a year are normal
Two to four colds a year are perfectly normal in adults. Children can even hit it eight to ten times. One of the reasons for this is that there are over 200 known pathogens that can cause influenza infections. If you catch a cold more often in the year, you have probably caught various viruses. Adeno, Rhino, Parainfluenza, Coxsackie, Corona or RS viruses are common triggers. Even in summer you can get a flu-like infection. The so-called summer flu is mainly caused by Coxsackie, Entero or Echo viruses.
Special care should be taken with children
In children with a cold, it is better to see a doctor too soon than too late. Caution should also be exercised with cold ointments and essential oils with menthol. In infants and young children, these substances can cause violent breathing difficulties, including respiratory arrest. Antipyretic measures and medication should only be used in consultation with a doctor. For example, children under the age of 12 should not take medication with the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid.
Get rid of the cold as quickly as possible
A cold usually resolves on its own. If you want to support the recovery process, you can fall back on a large repertoire of proven home remedies that can provide relief for the respective complaints. Some suitable measures are presented below.
Help with a cold
If you have a cold, inhaling hot vapors can loosen the nasal secretions and cause the mucous membranes to swell. You can either use an inhaler or you can bend your head over a bowl filled with hot liquid and place a towel over your head. Chamomile flowers, sage, thyme, fir, spruce, mountain pine, salts or Japanese mint oil can be added to the hot water. The steam should be inhaled from a distance of about 30 centimeters. Decongestant nasal sprays can make breathing easier at times, but should not be used over a long period of time.
Other home remedies for colds
Iodine water has proven itself as a home remedy for colds. Place a drop of iodine tincture in a glass of water and drink. The iodine is said to help regulate the fluid balance of the nasal mucosa. Many people affected also find nasal irrigation with table salt or EMS salt to be helpful.
Tackle the cough
If you have a cough, you should drink a lot, at least two liters a day. In addition to water, unsweetened medicinal plant and herbal teas are also suitable for this, such as tea made from fennel, ribwort or cowslip. If you have chronic illnesses, heart or kidney problems, you should use the amounts recommended by your doctor as a guide. The inhalations mentioned above can also relieve the urge to cough and have a beneficial effect. For more information, see the article "Natural Home Remedies for Cough".
Potato wrap for cough
A well-tried home remedy for cough is the potato wrap. For this purpose, five potatoes should be boiled softly and wrapped in a cloth. Now crush the potatoes smashed in this way into the cloth and then place it on your chest. The cloth can stay there until the wrap cools down.
Radish or onion syrup
Homemade onion or radish syrup has also proven effective against cough. To make the onion syrup, an onion must be minced and mixed with honey. This mass must be stored in a warm place overnight. The solids can be sieved the next day. A teaspoon should be taken several times a day from the finished syrup. Alternatively, a black radish can be used. This should be hollowed out in the middle and filled with a little honey. The beneficial radish juice is now formed in the cavity within one day.
What helps against hoarseness?
Traditional home remedies for hoarseness include curd cheese wrap. To make a quark wrap, all you need is ordinary lean quark at room temperature and a cloth that can be wrapped around your neck about one and a half times. Apply the curd about half a centimeter thick to the cloth, fold in the sides and put the wrap around your neck. The pad can now be wrapped with a scarf. The wrap should remain on the neck for about 15 minutes.
Other aids against hoarseness
Gargling with chamomile tea or warm blackberry juice can help alleviate the symptoms, as can lozenges with Emser salt, thyme or sage. You should also keep speaking to a minimum. Whispering in particular should be avoided as this will additionally irritate the vocal cords. A scarf keeps the neck area warm and can help to protect it.
What can you do for a sore throat?
Quiet, warmth and drinking a lot usually provide relief from a sore throat. In contrast, long and loud speaking, drafts and smoking should be avoided. The curd and potato wraps mentioned above are also effective home remedies for sore throats. Sage and chamomile teas have an anti-inflammatory effect and are suitable for taking several times a day. Gargling with a solution of sage and chamomile flowers can also provide relief.
Tips for fever
Fever is one of the sensible defense processes of humans. As long as it does not rise above 39 degrees, you should not take any action against it. If the fever rises above 39 degrees Celsius in adults or 39.5 degrees in children (exception: children with a tendency to febrile seizures - a doctor should be consulted about this) or if severe symptoms occur, the body temperature can be checked with numerous home remedies for fever reduce. If the fever does not decrease or even increase after a day, a doctor should always be consulted.
Calf wrap against fever
Cool calf wraps are a long-known and tried and tested home remedy for fever. Important: The wraps should only be used when hands and feet are warm, there is a room temperature of at least 22 degrees Celsius and there is no drafts. The water with which the wraps are soaked should only be one to five degrees colder than body temperature. To use, dip the wraps (e.g. cotton towels) in the water and wrap them around the calf. The towel should remain there until it warms up to body temperature. If necessary, the procedure can be repeated. Overall, the wrap should not be used for more than ten minutes in children and the elderly and for more than 20 minutes in adults.
When the first signs of a cold appear, a cold bath is advisable. The water should not be too hot, so it should not exceed 39 degrees. The bathing time should also not be longer than 20 minutes. If you have a fever, you should avoid hot bathing. Essential oils can be added to the bath water. Sage, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, chamomile, lavender and lemon balm are suitable for this. In total, no more than six drops should be added to the water. For children or if there are allergies, essential oils should be avoided, especially if they contain menthol. After the bath, the body needs rest. It is best to bathe directly before going to bed.
Ginger - the all-rounder against colds
A popular home remedy for colds is ginger. As a medicinal plant, it has been known in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda for thousands of years. In Germany, ginger was chosen as the medicinal plant of the year 2018. The healing tuber is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, ginger is said to strengthen the immune system and help protect against infections.
Regularly a glass of ginger tea
For colds, it is advisable to regularly drink a cup of fresh ginger tea. Simply pour a few thin slices of ginger with 200 milliliters of boiling water and let them steep for five minutes.
This is how ginger tea works more effectively for colds: Many people make a small mistake when preparing tea, which reduces their effectiveness. The ginger should not be peeled before preparation, as the valuable ingredients are mainly under the skin. It is best to use the organic version, since it is less contaminated with chemicals. The finished tea can be flavored with lemon and honey as desired.
What can you do about recurring colds?
If the immune system is weakened, the symptoms can become chronic or there are frequent relapses (increased susceptibility to infections). In this case, specialized treatment should be given to normalize the natural immune function. With minor changes in lifestyle and diet, as well as independent measures for regular physical detoxification, everyone can help to prevent infectious diseases.
Cold prevention - How to prevent infection
Autumn and winter is the main season for colds. Since the pathogens can be distributed anywhere, it is advisable to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (see: Washing your hands properly). Furthermore, you should not put your fingers in the face, as the nose and mouth are the main entry gates for the viruses. If it's not too rude, shaking hands should be avoided. Clothing appropriate to the weather should also be worn to protect against wind, cold and rain. Soaking or cold feet can weaken the immune system and promote infection.
Nutrition also plays an important role. A lot of fruits and vegetables, including vitamin C suppliers such as lemons and kiwis, provide the body with important nutrients and help to strengthen the immune system. Regular walks in the fresh air are just as advisable as saunas and alternating showers (alternating hot and cold showers). Interiors should be ventilated more often to give the dry heating air the necessary moisture. This protects the mucous membranes from drying out and makes them more resistant. (vb, jvs)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Hannelore Wächtler, Jean-Francois Chenot: Sore Throat, DEGAM Guideline No. 14, German Society for General Medicine and Family Medicine, (accessed August 15, 2019), AWMF
- Sabine Beck et al .: Cough, DEGAM Guideline No. 11, German Society for General Medicine and Family Medicine, (accessed August 15, 2019), AWMF
- Craig R. Pringle: Grippal Infection, MSD Manual, (accessed August 15, 2019), MSD
- Oliver Gries, Thomas Ly: Infectology - Compendium of Human Pathogenic Infectious Diseases and Pathogens, Springer Verlag, 1 edition, 2019
- Michael Reiss: Specialist knowledge ENT medicine: Differentiated diagnostics and therapy, Springer-Verlag, 1st edition, 2009
ICD-Codes for this illness: J06.9ICD-Codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.