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Woman sneezing into her sleeveDealing with a side effect of winter: The common cold

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


There are more than 200 viruses that can cause the common cold. Colds are so common this time of year that they seem to be a side effect of winter. Cold symptoms vary and can include runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches or a mild headache, sneezing, watery eyes, low-grade fever (up to 102 F) or mild fatigue. According to the Mayo Clinic website, the difference between a common cold and other viral infections is that there is not usually a high fever or extreme fatigue with the common cold.

Being viral, the common cold has no cure as such, but there are ways to deal with the symptoms.


  • Get the rest your body needs to heal itself.
  • If possible, stay away from other people, especially if you have a cough.
  • If you must be around others, reduce the chance of spreading infection by coughing into your sleeve and washing hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose.
  • The room of the sick person should be warm, but not overheated.
  • Keeping the room humidified can also help ease congestion and coughing. A cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer is best, and be sure it is kept clean to avoid mold and bacterial growth.

An eating plan for someone who has a common cold can also make a difference. Include lots of water, juice, tea and warm soup to replace fluids lost by a runny nose and fever. Try chicken soup. According to the Mayo Clinic website, research has shown that chicken soup helps relieve cold symptoms by acting as an anti-inflammatory. It also, “temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time the viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.”

To soothe a sore throat or cough, try gargling with warm salt water several times a day. This can bring some relief to symptoms. Drinking honey mixed into warm lemon water or tea is another home remedy. A 2007 study showed that children two years old and older who were given up to two teaspoons of honey before bed had less nighttime coughing and improved sleep about as effective as typical over-the-counter doses of the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Warning: do not give honey to children under the age of one as it may cause infant botulism.


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Last Updated 01/25/2016