nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
[personal profile] nineveh_uk
You can't, sorry. However while there is as yet no cure for the common cold, there is quite a lot that you can do in order to feel less dreadful while you have one, whether that is less dreadful as you groan in your bed with the cold from hell, pausing every five minutes to blow your nose, or less dreadful with the cold from purgatory, with which you still have to go to work. And since I have extensive experience in this area, I thought I might as well share it.

There are three options when you have a cold.

(1) Do nothing. I have done this in the past, in the "you're just treating the symptoms" mindset. I don't do that anymore. It probably won't harm you unless you are predisposed to secondary infections, or you decide to garnish it with things like going running in the cold. But if you've got a mild sniffle, time to rest, and like drinking tea, it's not a terrible idea.

(2) Do a bit. Probably what most people do, really. A combination of personal preference, need, and what you know about and can physically take.

(3) Hit it with everything that the pharmaceutical industry can throw at it. This is my way. It will not cure a cold, nor reduce the time you have it. But it makes me feel a lot better while I have it, and may reduce complications.

Obviously as an unqualified random person on the internet, I would never give medical advice to strangers, but I see nothing wrong in telling you what makes me feel better. What I do was worked out over a number of years and various references, but in fact has ended up as pretty much what the people at recommend. In fact, what follows is pretty much the annotated version of their method, which is also similar to that at

Treatment part 1, pharmaceutical

(1) Begin treatment at the earliest sign of a cold. You want to stop the inflammation before it gets going, and reduce the amount of gunk that you are getting in your sinuses/ears.

Take a first generation antihistamine. UK residents can buy chlorpheniramine maleate from Boots. If you're taking pseudoephedrine as well, Actifed is a good combination antihistamine (NB modern non-drowsy ones don't help a cold, so if you have to take those anyway, it won't help you).

Also, at the same time, take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. I go for ibuprofen and don't stint it. Paracetamol is OK if you can't take NSAIDs, but it won't help the inflammation, and you want to do that. However if you have a headache it can be worth adding some in as it can be taken at the same time as NSAIDs. Unlike my devil-may-care attitude to ibuprofen dosage, here paying attention to the max dosage does matter.

Continue with the antihistamine and NSAID as necessary until cold symptoms clear (3-7 days).

If you still feel rubbish, add an oral decongestant, specifically pseudoephedrine, if you're still getting tons of snot. Pseudoephedrine doesn't agree with everyone, but personally I love it even though I can't take it after 6pm if I don't want insomnia. It has raised me from wishing I were dead to a cheerful presence at several weddings and been the salvation of a number of holidays. In some countries it is harder to get hold of, but it is worth seeking out. The most common alternative, phenylephedrine, has little if any evidence of effectiveness and increasing studies showing it is no better than placebo. If, like me, your colds are of significant duration and you are addressing painful sinus symptoms then you should generally pick an oral decongestant over a nasal spray in order to avoid rebound congestion. However nasal sprays are fast acting and effective if it is just a nose issue. Try oxymetazoline.

Happily for me, I don't get much by way of coughs, so I can't comment on cough suppressants.

Treatment part 2, lifestyle

The most important sleep tip for those of us with rubbish noses is definitely nasal strips. That is, those plasters you sometimes see sportspeople wearing across the nose. They aren't cheap, but in my experience they make a real difference to being able to breathe even a little bit through your nose while asleep. The BreatheRight version are even less cheap than generics, but the glue is better.

Woken up with a cold and a pounding headache and desire to stab your forehead with a fork? Welcome to the world of sinus congestion. Have a biscuit, take some ibuprofen, force yourself to sit up, and have a hot shower as soon as you can. Let gravity relieve the bits of your head that the gunk is sitting on. Conversely, at the other end of the day lie down for a bit.

Inhaling hot water vapour doesn't really do anything beyond sometimes help you feel better for five minutes. But sometimes that is worth it. Those of you who like hot drinks, drink them. The caffeine probably helps, too.

Vicks and smelling salts do nothing but smell nice, but they can make you feel like you can breath better even when you can't physically. Also, inviting people to smell smelling salts and watching their reaction is very entertaining. Not that I would advocate this, of course.

Alcohol. In theory not a great idea, in practice it's up to how you feel. If I'm at a formal occasion and I have a cold I will usually drink and in my experience I feel none the worse for it long term and decidedly more cheerful short term! I know that I can safely drink on all the above medication, YMMV.

Best of all, avoid the cold in the first place. If you find out how to do that, let me know.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-26 07:55 pm (UTC)
sillymouse: Plum Blossom (Default)
From: [personal profile] sillymouse
Boots also offer chlorphenamine maleate as a syrup, which would probably double as a throat-soother.

Almost all my colds turn to chesty coughs, and I swear by guaifenesin. Does nothing for a cough that is down to an irritated throat, but once my chest is involved it makes the cough productive and seems to shorten the duration.

I also swear by a hot toddy with additional ginger wine/whisky mac with bells on. It definitely helps with a peaceful night's sleep.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-26 08:18 pm (UTC)
sillymouse: Plum Blossom (Default)
From: [personal profile] sillymouse
They also have other useful effects, but I am not planning any more children under any circumstances.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-26 08:04 pm (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
I swear by sambucol/elderberry extract when I'm just coming down with a cold--if I hit it in that window where I'm mostly presymptomatic but just feeling off, it usually won't keep me from getting the cold, but it will make it a lot less severe.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-26 08:53 pm (UTC)
gramarye1971: arms holding a hot water bottle against the stomach (Better Than Chocolate)
From: [personal profile] gramarye1971
*thumbs-up to all of this*

For ear and sinus congestion, I also recommend filling a hot water bottle and putting it behind the neck while sleeping or trying to sleep. The heat helps with drainage and general tension relaxation, as well as staving off chills.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-26 10:55 pm (UTC)
ruric: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ruric
Olbas oil dropped onto a tissue or into water and inhaled really helps my sinus issues and means I can breathe a little better.

Definitely bookmarking this pst for future reference :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-27 06:10 pm (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
It hadn't occurred to me that "do nothing" was a "just treating the symptoms" mindset. I thought it was a "people who take drugs will regret it when they really need drugs for something worth making a fuss about and besides you are not allowed to be ill because who will milk the cows (even if you don't have cows) so you just have to pretend you are fine and carry on and if you sit down for five minutes you are being a wimp" mindset.

But then I wound up with a GP saying "Yes but had you noticed that you cannot actually breathe? People are supposed to be able to breathe" and they got very cross and gave me inhalers and put me on steroids and the first type made me buy coats online and the second type made me suicidal so now I have to make sure that if I get a cold, it doesn't turn into a chest infection because I'm not going through all that again.

In other words, thanks for items 2 and 3 as I need to stop being item 1.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-27 07:06 pm (UTC)
sillymouse: Plum Blossom (Default)
From: [personal profile] sillymouse
I had wondered what steroids would do to adults, having dosed toddlers with them through several chest infections.

I got the other type of rural upbringing. We liked our pharmaceuticals, but they tended to be either someone else's prescription (a stay in hospital was just a way of topping up the family supply of the good co-codamol) or technically for veterinary use only (a strong solution of Virkon S cures cold sores pretty much instantly, but mostly by removing half the skin from your face). And once my mother had dosed you with whatever came to hand (at one point she was using homeopathy on the sheep), you had to pull yourself together and carry on because those pheasants won't feed themselves and besides the bantams are halfway to Sevenoaks again.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-31 08:11 pm (UTC)
sillymouse: Plum Blossom (Default)
From: [personal profile] sillymouse
It is very hard to tell with sheep. They get so many diseases.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-31 04:49 pm (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
Put on the coat indoors and then extra things when you go out,
Gosh. Now there's revelatory. No. Really. Damn.


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

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