How to Stop a Cold in its Tracks

December 29th, 2011 | Posted by Alison Spath in Healthy Habits

I’ve got a cold.  Tis the season you know.

The thing is, I rarely get sick.  I’m not telling you this to be annoyingly braggy, but instead to introduce my tried and true tricks that work to avoid catching a cold when I feel one coming on.  Usually, anyway.

Of course this time when I decided to finally write about it, I actually got the cold I was trying to dodge.

Cold or no cold, this feels like an appropriate time to share with you the three things I do when I feel a cold is near. You can find my legal disclaimer at the bottom of this post – just in case I might give you the impression that I am some sort of medical professional or something.

(I most definitely am not.)

The first thing we need to cover is that cold viruses typically live in your nose and throat. It’s called the Rhinovirus after all.  This is important to know because it’s where are you are going to start cleaning house and kicking those cold germs to the curb.

So when I get that telling sore, scratchy throat, I have a three pronged attack to stopping a cold in its tracks:

The Neti Pot.

A neti pot is used for nasal irrigation and is an ancient ayurvedic technique. Using the neti pot when you feel a cold coming on helps you begin to flush out the virus that’s busy reproducing in your nose and throat.

A peek into my medicine cabinet.

Neti Pot and Non Iodized Salt

I fill my ceramic neti pot with a pinch of non-iodized salt and lukewarm water. Standing over the sink, bend forward and put the tip of the neti pot into one nostril and then tip your head to the side and slowly pour the solution into your sinuses. If you give it a second, it will start to pour out of the other nostril. It’s an awesome party trick. Who knew those suckers were connected up there?!

Here’s a mildly entertaining neti pot video to show you how it works if you’ve never used one before. (It starts to get good at 1:02)

It is a little uncomfortable at first, but I’m here to tell the tale that it does get easier and less freaky after you’ve done a few times.

And if you watched that video all the way through, I would like to say that I have never, ever irrigated my sinuses with coffee or WHISKY for crying out loud. Only non-iodized salt water, thankyouverymuch.

If you start to feel water drip down into your throat, you need to tip your forehead down toward sink and tuck your chin toward your chest. More info and neti pot tips from Dr. Andrew Weil if you’re new to the neti pot and are now intrigued!

The neti pot can be used for all sorts of reasons too, much more than just avoiding a cold. Relief from post nasal drip, before yoga practice to help open your nasal passages, allergy relief and more.

Cold Avoiding Trick # TWO? Hot Tea

(or any hot beverage really, preferably one without sugar.)

This too is about lowering your viral load. Warm beverages are not only soothing, but can also help flush the cold virus out of your throat and into your stomach to be killed by your stomach acid.

If I think a cold is a near, I drink 2 to 4 cups of hot tea a day. Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Tea is my current tea of choice.

Hot Tea

I’ll leave your choice of tea up to you.

And Three, Gargling with Listerine

Or should I say “Gargling with Wegmans brand Oral Antiseptic Rinse”? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.


(Compare to the active ingredients in Listerine®!)

And no, that is not my hot pink Barbie toothbrush.

As I peruse the web for some relevant links pertaining to tip #3, I see that some people suggest using salt water or a concoction of anti-microbal herbs. But given the only hard and fast evidence I have to work with here is what works for me, I have to say that I gargle with Listerine a couple times a day when I feel a cold coming on.

Again, this is about ridding yourself of the virus in the back of your nose and throat.  I envision the germs in the back of my throat being hauled from their beach chairs and into the sea of Listerine before being spat into the sink drain.

Under “A Cold is Coming!!” circumstances, I typically gargle a couple times a day for a few days in a row.

If I/You DO Get the Cold?

A couple of other things worth noting:

I Almost Always Skip Over the Counter Meds

I’m telling you *I* because I want to be sure no one confuses this for medical advice. This is about my own experience and what works for me, take this and do what you will with it.  Please always do your own research and/or consult your own medical professional when in doubt.  Your doc is the one with malpractice insurance.

Thanks to what now amounts to years of pregnancy and nursing and avoiding over the counter meds during that time, I came to see that colds had a shorter life span if I just suffered through a couple of semi-miserable days without any medication and simply stuck to homeopathic remedies for relief. If you give your immune system time do it’s thing, the whole mess is likely to be to be over and done with a lot sooner.

(For the record, I first noticed my sore throat a couple days ago, had a not-so-great two days and now at Day 3, I have a stuffy nose but feel otherwise normal.)

Do your best to AVOID SUGAR!

Some say that cold viruses are fed by sugar (so are cancer cells, by the way) so when you are working to fight off a cold, skip overdosing on the sweet stuff.  Consider going completely without for a few days if you can swing it. I have a feeling that a bunch of Christmas cookies probably didn’t do me and my cold avoiding tricks any favors this time around.

(Oh well, they were worth it.)

So the next time you feel that tell tale tickle in your throat, remember!  Neti, Tea, Listerine!  Neti, Tea, Listerine!  Neti, Tea, Listerine! I find these three items are still helpful even if the cold does latch on and take hold too.

And now for my disclaimer:

Please don’t forget that I am not a doctor!  Have I said that already?  The only degree I have is in Computer Science. I have no malpractice insurance. I do not see patients. I do not prescribe medication. Do not take your clothes off when I ask you to. (Unless you really want to.) Do not try to file a lawsuit against Mama’s Weeds if you do what I say and a brain eating amoeba gets to your brain via your neti pot because you used tap water.

(P.S. I use to always use water straight out of the tap.  NEVER AGAIN!  I’ve been using pre-boiled or distilled water ever since I read that post!)

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