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How to conquer a holiday cold

A woman out in the snow wearing a gray hat and mittens sneezes into a tissue.

Spread joy (not germs)

Dec. 23, 2018—There's no good time to catch a cold. But this common malady can be particularly bothersome during the holiday season.

While there's no way to cure a cold, there are things you can do to help ease your symptoms. Try these four tips:

1. Get some rest. It can help your body fight off the virus dragging you down.

2. Drink plenty of fluids. Keep your mucus moving and your body hydrated. Clear liquids like water, herbal tea and soup are good choices. But avoid caffeine and alcohol.

3. Give yourself some OTC TLC. Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help ease cold symptoms. Get a jump on your illness by using them when symptoms (sneezing, scratchy throat or cough) start coming on. Options include:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches, fevers and sore throats. Children's versions of these are available—never give a child aspirin.
  • Cough and cold products that contain decongestants and antihistamines for a cough and a stuffy or runny nose. Do not give these products to children.
  • Sprays and lozenges for sore throats.
  • Saline nose drops to loosen mucus.

Be sure to follow the label directions, and read the list of ingredients carefully. Many cold products contain more than one medicine. Make sure you aren't taking too much of drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Check with a doctor if you have questions about giving medicine to children or yourself.

4. Think outside the medicine cabinet. You can ease your symptoms without hitting the pharmacy. Here are a few tricks to help you feel better fast:

  • Give salt water a gargle—it's not that bad. Try it a few times a day to help soothe a sore throat.
  • Use a humidifier. It might help clear a congested nose.
  • Steer clear of secondhand smoke. It makes a cold feel worse.

Keep it contained

Although colds can last up to a week or more, you may start to feel better in a few days. In the meantime, here are some ways to avoid sharing your cold:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue (or your elbow if no tissue is handy).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, including after blowing your nose or covering a cough.
  • Keep to yourself. You may have guests over, but try not to get too close. And while you're infectious, it's probably a good idea to put off gift shopping. If you can't wait until your cold has passed, consider shopping online.
  • Hang a separate towel in the bathroom for drying your hands—just until you're better.
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