A woman sick in bed blowing her nose wanting to relieve her common cold symptoms


The cure for the common cold

  • Remember, the common cold can make you feel miserable, but there are successful at-home remedies to make you feel better within a couple of days.
  • While most people will likely deal with two-to-four colds this season, certain populations should take extra precautions, and consider a visit to their health care provider, at the first sign of a cold

While there's no good time to come down with a cold, it can sometimes feel like colds always strike at the worst possible time. In order to get you feeling back to normal as soon as possible, here are the tips I recommend to my patients. 

Use pelargonium sidoides to shorten symptoms

Pelargonium sidoides, which is sold under various brand names like Umcka, Umckaloabo, Kaloba or Zucol, is truly a secret weapon for the common cold. Although largely unknown, this herb native to South Africa, is effective at making cough, sore throat and cold symptoms go away two to three days faster. It's not found at most pharmacies, but co-ops and online retailers carry it. I personally start using this whenever I feel a cold coming on.

Take zinc for cold symptom relief

Zinc has been shown to modestly shorten cold symptoms. This mineral, to be effective, needs to be taken every three hours starting at the beginning of symptoms and is not as effective as pelargonium.

Alleviate a cough with anti-inflammatory and antihistamines

Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory such as Aleve, is an effective cough suppressant for adults and can be used night or day. For nighttime use, sedating antihistamines like generic Benadryl or NyQuil can help alleviate a cough.

Need more than home remedies? Start an online visit

Relieve nasal congestion with a neti pot and nasal spray

Neti pot used twice daily can help if you are suffering from nasal congestion and three to five days of oxymetazoline over the counter nasal spray, like Afrin, to help you breathe easier. Non-medicated nasal sprays (Ocean Spray, others) are helpful for keeping painful, dry nasal passages moist.

Honey and hard candy are natural remedies for a cough

A tablespoon of honey two to three times per day can help if you are looking for a drug-free way to fight a cough. Dark honey works best. It doesn't have to coat your throat, so you can bake it into your favorite recipe. Also, having a hard candy, like a jolly rancher, can be just as effective as a medicated cough drop.

Unfortunately, over-the-counter cough syrups were NOT found to be very effective, and data showing vitamin C to be helpful is limited. 

How to avoid getting a cold

If you want to try and avoid getting a cold, take probiotics daily in capsule form or through yogurt to reduce the chances of getting a cold by 40-50 percent. Of course, you should also maintain a healthy immune system and make sure you

  • wash your hands
  • avoid touching your face and mouth
  • eat a healthy diet
  • stay active


Share this article


Is it the flu or something else?

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and surging RSV cases, this cold and flu season will be a lot more complicated. Learn the differences and get the right care.

Continue reading


Get fun, inspiring, provider-reviewed articles sent to your inbox.

Sign up for our email newsletter