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Conquering the Common Cold

We're just on the edge of flu season, which tends to begin in October. Before that, however, there are plenty of colds to go around! When I was in school, I would often get a cold right about now, just in time for the first big exams of the semester. I remember one particular chemistry exam... I got maybe 6 hours of sleep the night before, as I was constantly blowing my nose and struggling to breathe in general. Funnily enough, I got an A on that test. Perhaps the hours I spent half-awake were extra study time, with my subconscious churning away over the material. Alkane, single bond, alkene, double bond... Man, am I glad that's over!

Anyhow, I wanted to share all of my cold-fighting hacks with you today. Unfortunately, I don't have a magic bullet solution that will eliminate every symptom, but this is what I do to make life at least bearable.


  • Vitamin C. Surprisingly, research has shown little connection between Vitamin C consumption and the prevention of colds. In a 2007 study, daily vitamin C supplements slightly shortened the duration of a cold by an astounding eight percent. Well, even if this vitamin doesn't bring your cold to a screeching halt, it's certainly not bad for you. It does help with iron absorption, collagen formation, and other such important things.

  • A good breakfast. Honey gingerbread oatmeal (roughly 2 tsp. honey, generous dash of cinnamon, and a pinch of ginger) is a breakfast I really appreciate when I'm sick. Several cold symptoms are inflammation-related, so any anti-inflammatory ingredients like these can be beneficial. Honey also has powerful antibacterial properties, so while you must endure the current viral cold, doesn't mean you have to succumb to a bacterial infection on top of it. That's my reasoning at least... and honey makes the oatmeal sweeter!


  • Cough drops. Lemon honey with menthol seem to work best for me, as the menthol can sometimes open up a stuffy nose. Another favorite is Ricola, especially the original herbal sort. In a pinch, mint gum can also work to take the edge off a sore throat.

  • An orange at lunch. More vitamin C, of course.


When everything gets worse...

  • Soup and garlic toast for supper. Chicken noodle, tomato, whatever you like. Warm liquids can really help to loosen congestion. The garlic toast can be as simple as a hefty sprinkling of garlic powder on buttered toast. Garlic is another "old wives' tale" when it comes to colds; there is limited evidence regarding its effectiveness. But hey, when we're sick, we'll try just about anything that is rumored to work.

  • Tea with honey. I'm really not a tea person... coffee is my hot beverage of choice. When I'm sick however, I do appreciate a soothing cup of mint tea with honey.

  • Menthol muffler. This is probably my #1 solution for a sore throat at night. I've never had much luck with OTC medicines like NyQuil, and besides, they taste pretty horrendous. So slathering my throat with Vicks Vaporub and wrapping it snug with a hand towel has been most effective for me. A dab of Vicks under the nose can also help with stuffiness.

All Day

  • Cut back on sugar. Sugar can hamper the immune system, making it harder to fight an infection. Reign in the sugar consumption where you can (black coffee instead of a flavored latte, birthday cake or ice cream rather than both). I know, this is terribly, terribly hard and bordering on impossible for me. When I'm sick and feeling sorry for myself, I want nothing more than to indulge in candy and desserts. However, seconds after eating chocolate, for example, my scratchy throat protests by reaching a whole new level of scratchiness. Just try to keep the greater goal of health in mind. :)

  • Drink water. This goes without saying, but there it is. Staying hydrated is always a good idea, and it may loosen congestion.

I wish you the best of health in the upcoming sickness season!

'Til next time,



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