A Cold Creeping In? How to (Maybe) Help Stave It Off

For some reason, I’ve been coughing more this Fall than I think I usually do (if only one could quantify the background cough!), but generally, my breathing has felt pretty good. That is, until today—it still feels okay, but not great, and I feel like it’s possible I might be getting sick. I have that feeling that one gets before a sore throat, my chest feels a bit heavier, and maybe that cough is something—or not something—after all. I had a stellar round of PFTs on Thursday and now, Saturday, things don’t feel quite as stellar.

This doesn’t exactly surprise me. After all, I work with kids, and I’ve been working at the university for the last 3 weeks, where I am pretty sure the university students may harbor more germs about them than children do since no grown-up is telling them to wash their hands (sadly). So, while I promptly reached for a glass of my favorite peach mango juice, I also hopped on Google to see if there’s perhaps, with any luck, a way I can stave off this cold because I have a stupidly busy week ahead—which includes beginning to coach my youth team again and meeting new kids and parents, a work meeting, Bingo with a friend, a board meeting, archery, an appointment with my respirologist… and so on. A cold?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!

How to (apparently) stop a cold in its tracks

I consulted a few different articles, and here are the top tips to hopefully prevent those first little symptoms of a cold from morphing into anything worse.

  1. Rest. So, I’m supposed to spend the bulk of the weekend sitting at my laptop, playing The Sims, watching Netflix, and making a dog leash out of paracord? Okay, cool. According to WebMD, de-stressing by getting some rest and relaxation—like meditating, listening to music, and so on—is a good idea, too.1 Check.
  2. Hydrate.1 Now, the article does mention this specifically for sinus symptoms, which I don’t have. But since any fluid without caffeine helps, well, though water is best, I don’t mind an excuse to keep drinking this vitamin C rich, highly delicious peach mango juice. (Seriously people. 10/10 recommend. I’m drinking Oasis brand, and none of the juice company websites have a proper photo/description, nor do they seem to have a Twitter account for me to inform them of this. It’s delicious, but also possibly only in Canada, so you might just have to believe me).
    Eventually, maybe I’ll even drink some water, which I never do but I am quite serious about this not getting sick thing.
  3. Drink hot tea with honey, apparently.1Everybody always says this, and look, I don’t exactly love tea (and I have the same feelings about honey.) With an actual sore throat, stuffiness and a cough, I sometimes sway myself. But hey, maybe I’ll give it a go. According to Murray Grossan, MD, an ENT at Cedars-Sinai Hospital LA, drinking “tea and breathing in steam stimulates the cilia—the hair follicles in the nose—to move out germs more efficiently. Lemon thins mucus, and honey is antibacterial.”2
    So, that’s a thing, but it doesn’t explain why everything is telling me to drink tea to stave off this cold. *shrug emoji*.
    Also, some other website is saying to drink garlic tea. This sounds a) gross and b) highly questionable, and I will not be partaking. (Though this study also says to eat garlic as an immune modifier, but garlic bread sounds a lot better, thanks.]
  4. Exercise. Yep, so long as you’re already not too sick to move, exercise can help elevate your body temperature and improve the functioning of CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells—which in plain English means the cells that can kill viruses and tumors. 3According to this very confusing research study I don’t understand, elevating body temperature (perhaps via exercise—usually happens naturally by way of developing a fever), stimulates these cells to work better, thus fighting off the infection. 3,4 Thus, it may be reasonable that elevating body temperature via exercise early on in illness may help trigger that immune response quicker (ie. before you develop a fever).3
    The study itself only mentions exercise once versus creating a hotter climate 4, but it does make some sense.

What about supplements?

These are greeted with a big ???. While I don’t use supplements, some people swear by them. This website, though, says results are inconsistent at best—yes, even for vitamin C that has been drilled into our brains to help with colds. Zinc, echinacea, probiotics, and vitamin D—among others—are all in the same boat, according to a summary by the University of California at Berleley. 5They won’t likely hurt (although be careful with supplements like Vitamin D and Zinc), but they may not help, either.

Extra steps with asthma

When you start feeling a cold coming on, it may be helpful to get a head start and increase your asthma medications according to your asthma action plan, to minimize the effect of illness on your lungs. And while none of these prevention or halting methods above are guaranteed to work, with any luck they might decrease the duration of your cold or make symptoms milder. And, given they’re all fairly healthy actions (well, probably with the exception of drinking a whole bottle of peach mango juice like I may just do, mostly because it is delicious), they likely won’t hurt.

And as always, stick with the tried and true methods to avoid colds in the first place—wash your hands frequently, sanitize surfaces, avoid sick people where possible, and yes, stop touching your face—the later of which is far easier said than done, shockingly—and get some rest. Maybe I’ll try to go to bed early tonight, and maybe—as opposed to normally—I might actually succeed? Hmm…

What do you do to stay healthy during cold and flu season?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/stop-a-cold#1
  2. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/20-surprising-ways-prevent-colds-flu/story?id=21019686
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101130200.htm
  4. Mace, T. A., Zhong, L., Kilpatrick, C., Zynda, E., Lee, C. T., Capitano, M., Minderman, H. & Repasky, E. A. (2011). Differentiation of CD8+ T cells into effector cells is enhanced by physiological range hyperthermia. Journal of leukocyte biology, 90(5), 951-962.
  5. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/supplements/other-supplements/slideshow/can-supplements-fight-colds

Comments

View Comments (6)
  • Shellzoo
    3 weeks ago

    I have found since having my asthma treated and controlled, I am catching fewer colds. Not sure if it is better allergy control or asthma control but, my immune system is doing much better.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post. What you’re doing seems to work well for you – keep it up! What does your physician think about your progress and control? Enjoy the holiday. Leon (site moderator)

  • WheezyMe
    3 weeks ago

    Great tips, Kerri!
    May I add two more that I found helpful?
    1. Keeping my airways warm: That includes drinking a lot of hot drinks (tea, herbal infusions, cocoa, whatever), warming the air in my room, and taking a warm shower. Avoid prolonged exposure to cold air when possible.
    2. I usually have productive cough when I’m sick. An OTC mucolytic (a med that thins mucus and helps it come out efficiently) is a must for me- I use carbocysteine, but there are also others.

    Keep healthy and strong! Wheezy

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Hi WheezyMe and thanks for your input in response to Kerri’s excellent article. It’s always helpful for us to know what our community members are doing to help manage their own condition. We appreciate your contributions.
    Wishing you well,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • krishwaecosse
    3 weeks ago

    If I upped my preventer every time I thought I was getting a cold then I’d be continually upping it. I work in education and seem to be increasingly susceptible to colds and other viruses. Often it is a course of pred that has to settle asthma after a cold.
    I do agree that tea with honey does seem to be helpful. Though my Dad always said it should be a Hot Toddy for a cold. Not a fan of whisky myself, but it does seem to work.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Krishwaecosse and thanks for sharing what works for you in managing your condition. We appreciate your input. Leon (site moderator)

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