How to help your recovery from a bad cold

There are few things worse than being bunged up and bogged down by a nasty cold.  

While it may feel like you just have to ride it out, there are actually ways to help speed up your recovery from illness and the cold virus. Each of us is an individual and recovery from illness can be a very personalised thing. Some people will be back on their feet in no time, while others will take longer to feel back to normal. 

While some of the advice below may seem obvious, it will give you the best chance of a speedy recovery.  

A cold is a common, mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways and most colds will clear up on their own within a week or two – so there’s usually no need to see your doctor.  

If you have a bad cold, you may feel unwell for a short period of time with symptoms including a sore throat, blocked or runny nose, sneezing and a cough.  

Less-commonly, you may also have a high temperature, headache, earache, muscle pains, a feeling of pressure in your ears and face and a loss of your sense of taste and smell.  

The symptoms of a cold usually develop within a few days of becoming infected and are at their worst during the first two to three days, before they gradually start to improve.  

So, what are the ways to help fight off that cold?  

Drink fluids

When you have a cold it’s important to replace the fluids that are lost from sweating and having a runny nose.  

If you are dehydrated then your recovery will be hindered, so it’s important to make sure you drink plenty of water.  

Eat a healthy diet

Regularly eating a healthy and varied diet, which includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help support your recovery. 

Having a cold may cause you to lose your appetite and this is perfectly normal.  

‘Loss of appetite should only last a few days so don’t force yourself to eat if you aren’t feeling hungry,’ Lesley White, a pharmacist at Boots, tells

Try and get outside

Get some fresh air and gentle exercise but don’t over-do it. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body.   

Avoid alcohol and don’t smoke

It goes without saying that smoking and drinking can make you feel run down even when you’re feeling healthy, let alone when you’re poorly, so avoid alcohol and don’t smoke. 

Get steaming

Inhaling steam can really help clear your pipes.  

Lesley says: ‘Either in a warm shower or over a bowl of warm water, inhaling steam will help keep your nasal passages moist and also loosen any mucus so it can drain away.’  

Try medicines to help relieve the symptoms of colds

Speak to your pharmacy team about products available to help relieve the symptoms of a cold.  

These medicines may contain paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve aches, pains and a high temperature.  

Lesley says: ‘Paracetamol is often included in “all-in-one” or “combination” cold and flu relief products along with different ingredients to relieve other symptoms such as a sore throat or a cough or congestion.  

‘It is important not to take more than one paracetamol-containing product at the same time. 

‘If you have a cold, remember to cough or sneeze into a tissue and put the used tissue in the bin, then wash your hands, to avoid spreading the infection to others.’  

If that cold of yours still isn’t shifting then consider this.  

You should see your GP if:  

  • Your symptoms persist for more than three weeks  
  • Your symptoms get suddenly worse  
  • You have breathing difficulties  
  • You develop complications of a cold such as chest pain or coughing up blood-stained mucus  

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