Stopping Colds in Their Tracks

We all know the nasty sensation of coming down with a cold: when you feel like your head is stopped up, when your nose is constantly running, and when nothing tastes right.

Most of what we call colds are technically known rhinitis, and are caused by various micro-organisms settling on nasal or throat surfaces, and the body's reacting to them. When your nose is running, your body is trying to get rid of those organisms.

The important thing is to let the body get rid of the junk. People are always trying to avoid sneezing, runny noses, and congestion. But the problem is that they are often treating the symptoms, and not the problem itself. Water treats the problem. Make sure you have plenty of water to let the body do its job.

One of the reasons the old advice ("Rest, and get plenty of liquids!") was good advice was you could have time to let the body work on getting rid of whatever is causing problems. If you take something to stop your runny nose, all you've done is give yourself a dry (and usually sore) throat, and prevent the body from blowing out what's causing the problem.

It's not easy to conduct a business meeting if you're nose is constantly running. It's not easy to teach if you're constantly sneezing. But those are some of the ways your body is trying to cure you. If you possibly can, take some time off, rest, and you will recover much faster.

Your body will be going through a great deal of water, and you need to replenish it frequently. It's easy to forget how much liquid goes out in a runny nose (and probably not something you want to ponder a lot, either!) And every time you sneeze, your body loses water. So a good rule of thumb is for every time you sneeze or blow your nose, drink some water. Every time. Now the problem is that most folks just don't feel like eating when they have a bad cold. Neither do they feel like drinking. So you may have to fool your body into thinking that you're drinking something special that's not just the water it needs.

The easiest way is to slice a lemon (or lime) and put a slice into your glass. Unlike sugar and other things we are prone to add to water, the trace of lemon adds nothing but taste: no calories, no caffeine, and no carbohydrates.

Another trick is to heat the water. That's right: serve up plain, hot water in a special cup, and maybe jazz it up with lemon, too.

And as long as you're drinking your quota of 20 glasses of water a day, there's no reason you can't enjoy some other liquids. Hot broth, juices (though not too much: your body needs a rest from digesting, too!) and hot teas can be enjoyable, and help alleviate the boredom.

If you're drinking tea, you might want to go with herbal, decaffeinated teas. I have nothing against caffeine, when used in moderation, and I drink caffeinated tea almost every day. But when you are sick (whether from a cold, or from something else) allow your body to clear out some of the corridors. Don't give it the extra task of dealing with caffeine ... at least not now.

The important thing is to keep consuming liquids. Your body may be cleansing out some toxins, and it needs fluids to do that job. Monitor factors such as the color of your urine. If the urine is a dark or brownish color, you need more liquids. (A rule of thumb is that urine should be a light straw color. If it's darker, immediately drink down 2 glasses of water).

Jim Huffman, RN specializes in natural and alternative healing therapies. His first book is 'Dare to Be Free: How to Get Control of Your Time, Your Life, and Your Nursing Career,' and is aimed at helping other nurses find satisfying, dynamic careers. His website is and his health blog is at

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