Home Remedies for the Common Cold

what to do when you have a cold

It’s cold and flu season, and you wake up in the morning with congestion and fatigue. What should you do?

If you have mild symptoms, a home remedy might ease whatever is going on in your body.

For those not-quite-feeling-right days, APD experts share their go-to cold remedies:

Amanda Fay, MSN, RN, Clinical Educator and Program Development Coordinator: I eat raw honey with chopped garlic. It’s the dynamic duo that makes you smell like a delicious Italian restaurant.

Paula Seaman, MSN, RN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer: My go-tos for a cold includes Yogi tea, chicken noodle soup, naps, and fresh air — the last being timeless advice from Florence Nightingale.

Annika Brown MD, Medical Director of Family Medicine: Rest, ginger-turmeric tea, and good old ibuprofen.

The Warming Socks Technique

  • You will need a thin pair of cotton socks, thick wool socks, a sink with cold tap water, and a basin/bathtub of hot water.
  • Soak the cotton socks in cold tap water and wring them out thoroughly.
  • Soak your feet in basin or bathtub of warm water for a few minutes, until feet are hot and pink.
  • Remove your feet from the warm water and quickly dry them off. Immediately put on the cold, wet cotton socks.
  • Put a pair of dry wool socks on over the wet cotton socks. 
  • Go directly to bed and keep your feet covered in your blankets throughout the night.

Shawn Richardson, Director of Nutrition and Environmental Services: Tea with lemon and honey and soup with bread — my mom makes my favorites.

Cindy Reuter, ND, MSOM, MPH, LAc, Director of Integrative Medicine at APD: Warming socks (see sidebar) are a great naturopathic hydrotherapy remedy for sore throats and any congestion in the chest, sinuses, or nose. I recommend nightly for a week until symptoms are resolved.

My second remedy for those “I-might-be-coming-down-with-something” days: take a hot bath (I like to add a big handful of Epsom or dead sea salt), drink a bowl of hot soup (chicken or miso with a couple added slices of fresh ginger and green onion), wrap up well (sweats and a hat), and jump into bed. Most people’s bodies will respond by breaking a good sweat. In Chinese Medicine, this sweating is believed to interrupt the process of the cold or flu fully forming. Once you sweat, get up, change into dry clothes if needed, and go back to bed. If you didn’t break a sweat, repeat the process the next day.

You could also try essential oil inhalation to ease nasal and sinus congestion. Add two to three drops of eucalyptus essential oil (or a similar oil, like rosemary or peppermint) to a cotton ball or Q-tip. Stash it in a small container, like a re-purposed pill container. Every few minutes, hold the container under your nose and take two to three slow, full breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

“Call your primary care provider to help guide you if any of the following is true: your symptoms worsen; you have a fever greater than 101.3, a fever lasting five days or more, or a fever that returns; as well as severe sore throat, headache or persistent sinus pain, shortness of breath and/or wheezing,” Dr. Brown said.

Related article: Why Get a Flu Vaccine?