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Wave Goodbye to Colds for Good!

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5 Ways to Get Rid of a Cold Fast

If you're already sick, these remedies will have you on the mend in no time.

Take zinc.

In a study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, people who used an over-the-counter (OTC) zinc nasal spray four times a day recovered almost two days faster and had fewer symptoms than those given a placebo. Another study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that volunteers treated with zinc lozenges had colds that lasted about half the time as those who didn't pop zinc -- four and a half days instead of eight. "We're not sure exactly how zinc works, but one theory is that it actually prevents the cold virus from replicating," says Dr. Schachter.

Eat chicken soup.

Mom was right: A Nebraska Medical Center study shows that the broth reduces inflammation and inhibits the activity of neutrophils, the white blood cells that may increase mucus production.

Try ginseng.

People who took 200 mg of ginseng twice daily during cold and flu season had shorter colds than those who just popped a placebo (11 days versus 16 1/2 days), according to a study performed at the University of Alberta, Canada. Look for products that contain at least 1.5 percent to 2 percent total ginsenosides, which means they contain enough ginseng to be effective.

Stay in bed.

"If your body is exhausted, it will be that much harder for it to fight the virus," says Benjamin Littenberg, MD, director of general internal medicine at the University of Vermont. If you must go to work, at least get a good night's rest: People who sleep four hours a night have weaker immune systems than those who get a seven and a half to eight and a half hours, according to a University of Chicago study.

Treat your symptoms.

To power through the day, look for a product that contains the nasal decongestant phenylephrine, such as Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom or Sudafed PE. It's a stimulant, so it won't leave you feeling groggy, says Dr. Lamm. It can temporarily drive up blood pressure, though, so if you've got hypertension, talk to your doctor before using it. Choose a remedy that has an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine, as well as acetaminophen, like Tylenol PM. The antihistamine will make you drowsy, and the acetaminophen will relieve the fever and achiness that may keep you up. If coughing is disturbing your sleep, Dr. Littenberg recommends an OTC with dextromethorphan or the prescription drug Tessalan.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, January 2007.


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