UNC Health Care
A delicious bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Four Natural Ways to Treat Cold Symptoms

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat. While usually harmless, it can make you feel run-down and miserable with a stuffy nose, cough and general malaise.  Although there is no cure for the common cold, there are things you can try to help you feel better.

UNC Health family medicine physician Sarah Ruff, MD, suggests these four tips to help relieve your symptoms.

1. Eat honey.

One of the most effective treatments for a cough is honey, says Dr. Ruff.

“Either eat a tablespoon of honey or mix honey with lemon in tea,” Dr. Ruff says. “That soothes the throat because it puts a layer on your throat and helps with a cough.”

Although many homeopathic remedies available at your pharmacy have honey in them, Dr. Ruff says it’s more effective to just use raw honey.  However, infants under age 1 should never have honey.

2. Drink liquids.

Drinking fluids such as water, tea or soup will help you replace the fluids you may have lost while loosening mucus. This can help relieve congestion.

“You’re more likely to lose your body fluids with coughing and sneezing so you definitely want to stay hydrated,” Dr. Ruff says.

3. Soak in the tub.

Taking a warm bath or hot shower helps clear your nasal passages. That’s because steamy showers or baths moisturize your nasal passages. They also warm you up when you have “the chills” and help you relax.

“People usually feel really good after that,” Dr. Ruff says.

4. Plug in the humidifier.

Running a humidifier in your room—especially while you sleep—can help moisturize your nasal, throat and lung passages. This will make it easier to breathe.

“A humidifier in your room helps you and your kids breathe when you have nasal congestion,” Dr. Ruff says.

Keep in mind that serious conditions such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), strep throat, influenza, bronchitis and meningitis have similar symptoms to the common cold. If you have severe or lingering symptoms, call your doctor.


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