There are few things more frustrating than that initial tickle in your throat or congestion in your nose – it’s that second you realize “oh no… a cold!” You’re in a panic to figure out how to get rid of a cold overnight so you won’t spend the next few days in bed miserably going through one tissue after another.
What’s a person to do? Well, there are actually quite a few things.
I want to go over home remedies for a cold, so you can know how to get rid of a cold as quickly as possible. Bonus: everything we go over here will be all-natural. Why?
- First off – antibiotics are completely useless against a cold; they’re viral, not bacterial
- Then – various cold medications can deal with your symptoms for a few hours, but they are not doing anything to cut down the duration of your cold or genuinely improving the symptoms… and they can come with un-fun side effects like not being able to sleep when you really want to (and need to!)
So if the evil sniffle is upon you, read on to understand how to fight a cold and get back to your normal, happy self as soon as possible.
Head Cold 101
Before you learn how to get rid of a cold, you will need to make sure you are actually dealing with a head cold.
Head colds, also called “the common cold,” come from a virus (rhinovirus) that enters your body through your mouth, your eyes, or your nose. You don’t have to touch a person; it can arrive by air.
And they leave you quite miserable. Symptoms of a head cold include:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Sinus congestion
- Sore throat
- Body aches (not too severe)
- Headaches (again, not too severe)
- Low fever (should be under 101 for adults)
- Feeling crummy (malaise, in medical terms)
Sometimes people think that once their tissues are filled with yellow or greenish mucus, they have a bacterial infection and not a head cold. But that’s not true. It’s very normal for the common cold to end up that way too.
A better indicator that your head cold is actually a bad infection is a higher fever, chills, more severe body aches, shortness of breath, or a more hacking sounding cough.
How Long Do Colds Last?
Your symptoms won’t start the second you were exposed to the virus; they start about one to three days afterward. Then the average length of a cold is somewhere around a week – though it’s definitely possible to have a short 3-day cold or a long 2-week cold.
So if you’re hoping to learn how to get rid of a cold overnight it may not be the most realistic goal. But you can certainly do things to shorten the length and reduce the misery. For instance, in our house, colds typically last 3 to 5 days and then we’re bouncing back and doing great.
9 Home Remedies For A Cold
If you want to know how to get rid of a cold naturally – I have 9 options below for treating a cold at home.
Drink, Drink, Drink
And in case you were wondering, I’m not talking about wine. Getting plenty of liquids is certainly the #1 way of how to cure a cold as quickly as possible with as little misery as possible. They replenish lost liquids, keep your cough/congestion at bay, and ward off aches and pains.
Here’s what to drink when you have a cold:
- Herbal Tea
- Smoothies (fill your smoothie with fruits, greens, protein powder, green tea powder, and non-dairy milk like coconut or almond milk – dairy can promote congestion and inflammations so definitely avoid when battling a cold)
We also like to add coconut kefir and probiotics to our beverages as well.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Coffee (if you still need some caffeine, use green tea powder)
- Juice (too much sugar!)
Keep the Air Slightly Humid
Keeping your home – especially your bedroom – humid during your cold is one of the best methods for how to get rid of a cold and its symptoms. Everything from your cough to your stuffy nose will benefit from a little moisture.
Plus, studies show the cold virus is less apt to spread in humid homes than dry homes. So your family members will thank you.
Here are three ideas on how to fight a cold with humidity:
- Humidifier or Diffuser: Purchasing a humidifier or diffuser is the easiest way to keep the rooms of your home adequately humid. Personally, we don’t use humidifiers much. Unless you’re meticulous about cleaning your humidifier daily (and let’s be real, most people don’t) it’s a prime place for mold and bacteria to form. We prefer to add some drops of essential oil to a diffuser (another awesome cold remedy) and diffuse that into the air. Granted this is most effective for smaller spaces like a bedroom if we’re talking about increasing humidity, but it is the best/safest way to add moisture to the air without the work of daily cleaning a humidifier.
- DIY Steam: You can also do a few face steams each day. Put a hot bowl of water on your table. Add a few drops of essential oil (learn about the two I recommend below!). Lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head so it covers you and the bowl fully. Then breathe in the steam for a few minutes. A hot, steamy shower can also do the trick.
- Bath: A warm bath will be your savior during a head cold. Not only will it provide that essential warm humidity, but it will also loosen your congestion… and it’s a top body aches remedy. Just add some Epsom salts and some relaxing essential oils like Lavender and it will help to ease the tension and aches away.
Here’s how to get rid of a cold using two powerful essential oils:
Frankincense is an amazing healing oil; it’s anti-inflammatory in nature and it supports your immune system. Diffuse frankincense in your home when you’re not feeling well. Add it to your bath or DIY steam. Dilute it with a carrier oil and give yourself a foot massage (feet are the ultimate place for absorbing oils!).
And don’t forget about the power of frankincense’s calming properties during your cold. If you’re anything like me, being unexpectedly laid up for a few days can be a big stressor.
Then we come to the mighty minty oil. Peppermint can provide respiratory support. Here’s my favorite way to use it: I will dilute it with a little jojoba or coconut oil. Then I’ll rub it on my chest, the tip of my nose, and my hands. The peppermint helps decongest and clear the airways.
Herbs and Vitamins
Loading up on herbs and vitamins will give your body the support it needs to do its job: fight off your cold.
How to get rid of a cold fast with herbs:
- Ginger root: Ginger is highly medicinal – it can do everything from calm an upset stomach to ward off a virus.
- Echinacea: This herb can both reduce your symptoms and shorten the length of your cold – it’s most effective early on, so add it to your list of how to stop a cold when you feel it coming on.
How to get rid of a cold fast with vitamins:
- Vitamin C: This is the holy grail of vitamins for colds. When you start taking it early enough, it can shorten the length of your cold.
- Vitamin B: The B vitamins are incredible at giving you a little extra energy boost, which can help you make it through the day when you’re not feeling well.
And definitely remember to take your probiotic supplement religiously through your cold. Your body needs all that healthy, helpful bacteria to keep your immune system strong.
Grandmas know how to get rid of a cold real fast, right? Soup! They’ve been right all along, particularly when that soup is made out of bone broth (as opposed to regular ol’ stock). Here’s why it’s great:
- First off, bone broth fills you up with more of those liquids you desperately need.
- Secondly, you are going to get all those nutrients and minerals from the bones that are easily absorbed into the body.
Bone broth is a powerhouse of health.
Don’t settle for the store bought stuff. Real bone broth should be homemade and simmered not for a few hours, but for a few days. So start it the second you feel the cold coming on and keep it simmering on your stove. Or better yet, invest in a VitaClay or Instant Pot Pressure Cooker – perfectly designed for bone broth – and have it ready in just a few hours.
You can make hearty soups and stews or even just pour yourself a mug to sip on a few times a day. I like to add a splash of apple cider vinegar. I’ve seen firsthand how quickly a cold can turn around with a few sips of bone broth.
Salt Water Gargle
Gargling salt water for cold relief is simple, cheap, and effective. A salt water gargle will calm the pain of a sore throat, plus it can loosen all that thick mucus that’s just hanging out in the back of your throat (gross, but we’ve all been there!)
Salt Water Gargle Recipe:
- 8-ounce glass of warm water
- ½ – ¾ teaspoon of salt
Fun fact: Studies have shown that daily gargling can actually prevent upper-respiratory infections, so tack this one on your “how to stop a cold before it starts” list.
Nobody said learning how to cure a cold would be cute – and this option is really anything but cute. Yet it works. A neti pot allows you to pour a saline nasal rinse into one nostril while it slides out the other nostril as you lean over a sink.
This nasal irrigation helps clear up all that congestion, which reduces sinus pain/sinus headaches.
Don’t worry – it won’t drown you. As you keep your mouth open, you can still breathe through it.
It’s important to follow the instructions on your neti pot. You can’t just fill it with regular tap water and go. Normally, you will use distilled or previously boiled water, and you must include the salt or saline solution. Then it is essential to clean your neti pot perfectly every time – that way you don’t pour dangerous bacteria into your sinuses the next time you use it.
If any of the tips on how to get rid of a cold on this list were slightly controversial, this would be the one. Yet people swear it’s how to get rid of a cold overnight.
Drop a few drops of high-quality hydrogen peroxide in the ear at very early stages of a head cold. Let it stop bubbling and try the next side.
Science is not in full agreement that this does anything at all. Nevertheless, according to the health and wellness community this is considered to be one of the best remedies if you want to know how to stop a cold when you feel it coming on. But if you’re already 3 days in, ignore it and just sip some extra bone broth.
The last tip for knowing how to get rid of a cold isn’t sexy or anything new. It’s about as simple as it gets and as effective as they come – yet most people toss the idea out right away.
Rest is how to get rid of a cold fast. Period.
- Aim for at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep: Go to bed early, cancel your morning plans, do whatever you need to get a solid stretch of sleep. Prop your pillow if it makes it easier to breathe. Run a white noise sound machine to block out any loud interruptions. Better yet, check out this article for all the details on how to get a deep, rejuvenating sleep!
- Take naps: If your body is saying, “I could really sleep right now,” let it.
- Chill out: When you’re not sleeping, still rest. Now’s the time to get your Netflix binge watching on point. Read that novel you’ve been meaning to read. Don’t feel guilty, don’t feel lazy. You’re healing yourself by treating a cold.
How To Cure A Cold Through Diet
Using these 9 natural home remedies for a cold would be incomplete if we didn’t address your diet.
Hippocrates knew we should “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and that’s exactly the mindset you need if want to know how to get rid of a cold.
Foods To Avoid
- Sugar/sweetener: I know nothing may feel more comforting than cookies when you’re miserable on your couch, but that sugar is making you worse.
- Grains: Though some gluten-free unprocessed grains like quinoa can be added in moderation, try to cut out any sort of flour. You don’t need crackers, bread, and pasta when you’re healing up.
- Fast food: It may be quick and easy when you don’t feel like cooking, but it is certainly not helping.
Foods To Consume
- Chicken soup: Make sure you are choosing the right type of soup. Homemade with your bone broth is ideal. But if you don’t make it yourself (or have some frozen in the freezer), choose an organic brand that has vegetables and antibiotic-free chicken.
- Garlic: Garlic has been long loved for its ability to boost the immune system and knock out any virus (add it to your soup!).
- Probiotics: On top of the supplement, I will add sauerkraut to my soup and sip on a kombucha to give me some needed energy.
- Citrus: As long as your throat is not too sore, snacking on citrus is a great way to get some extra vitamin C.
- Berries: You need those extra antioxidants, so snack on these throughout the day.
- Greens: Kale, spinach, collards… you can’t go wrong.
- Spicy food?: Spicy food is not going to heal you, but it can decongest your nasal passage for a short time – if you don’t mind the heat, just let the natural decongestant work its magic!
How To Recover From A Cold
Knowing how to get rid of a cold must be followed up with proper tips on how to recover from a cold. Signs your cold is getting better include:
- Symptoms are less severe
- Energy is back
- Fever is absolutely gone
- Malaise has lifted
Just because you’re feeling better does not mean you are ready to jump back into your regular routine. Your body just worked hard to fight off a virus.
So keep nourishing your body with good foods, extra liquids, and plenty of sleep as you are getting over a cold completely. Keep taking your herbs, vitamins, and bone broth.
You can start working out once you’ve seen signs your cold is getting better, but the key here is to keep it simple. Be gentle with your body. A yoga session or walk is ideal.
Knowing How To Get Rid Of A Cold Naturally
Now you have a bunch of tools for how to cure a cold naturally. Use these faithfully and swirl that up with a little patience for your body. It’s doing its job of fighting a virus; it simply may need a few days.
Now I want you to share your tips on how to stop a cold when you feel it coming on. What are your favorite ways to get over a cold? Any good bone broth soup recipes? What oils or salts do you like to put in a warm bath? Any foods or remedies that seem to make you feel worse? Share your thoughts with me and our community in the comments below.
- “Natural Remedies for Illness.” WellnessMama, 4 Dec. 2017. https://wellnessmama.com/1499/natural-remedies-for-illness/
- “What’s a Cold?” Kids Health. http://m.kidshealth.org/en/teens/colds.html
- Mozes, Alan. “Higher Indoor Humidity Levels Might Slow Flu,” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20130228/higher-indoor-humidity-levels-might-slow-flus-spread#1
- “Frankincense.” Doterra. https://www.doterra.com/us/en/p/frankincense-oil
- “Bone Broth, Broths and Stocks.” Nourished Kitchen. http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/
- Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, Shimbo T, Watanabe M, Kamei M, Takano Y, Tamakoshi A; Great Cold Investigators-I. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” 29 Nov. 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593
- Anderson, Chris C. “Does Gargling With Salt Water Ease a Sore Throat?” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/does-gargling-wlth-salt-water-ease-a-sore-throat#2
- O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Gargling With Salt Water Can Ease Cold Symptoms.” The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/health/28real.html
- “Neti Pot: 6 Health Benefits of Nasal Irrigation.” Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/neti-pot/
- “More on Hydrogen Peroxide for the Cold and Flu” Mercola. 27 March 2002. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/03/27/hydrogen-peroxide-part-two.aspx
- “What to Eat — and Avoid — When You Have a Cold” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-foods-cold
- Pinnock CB, Graham NM, Mylvaganam A, Douglas RM. (1990) Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged with rhinovirus-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2154152