How to Manage Cold Symptoms Like a Pro

Brace yourselves… winter flu season is coming. Okay, so I’ve never actually seen Game of Thrones, but that meme is both hilarious and totally appropriate here! Winter, flu season, and colds are all headed our way. So even though it’s still warm outside, let’s take a few minutes to get prepared for managing those cold symptoms like a pro. Consider it another awesome health tip from your favorite ginger nurse. You’re welcome!

Cold Symptoms: Here’s What You’re Looking For, Y’all

If your car won’t start because of a bad battery, replacing the engine won’t fix anything. You’d need to replace the bad battery to get things working again.

Well, it’s the same with your body. When you’ve got a cold, your treatments are going to be way different than if you’ve got a broken bone. Or bacterial pneumonia. So first, let’s talk cold symptoms. Generally, a cold is pretty easy to spot. Even so, here are the symptoms you need to watch for:

  • sore throat
  • runny (or stuffy) nose
  • cough
  • congestion
  • mild body aches
  • headache
  • low-grade fever
  • sneezing
  • malaise (general feeling of “I don’t feel so good”)

Your boogers/snot/nasal discharge/whatever you call it can be anywhere from light green to nasty yellow to dark green. The color isn’t an indicator of a bacterial infection – all it tells you is this:

The thicker and darker your boogers are, you may need to drink more water.

Oh, and here’s another fun fact about colds:

A “cold” is the name of the set of symptoms. It can be caused by a whole host of viruses out there, which is why you can catch cold so often. There’s a metric ton of viruses that cause a cold.

In any case, whether you catch that highly-publicized enterovirus D68 or just a regular enterovirus (or one of the many other viruses that cause a cold), let’s focus on managing those symptoms like a pro. Because, that’s the main treatment for colds: symptom management. Unless y’all develop a magic cure for the common cold, that’s not likely to change any time soon, either.

1. Calm Down to Breathe Easier

Whether you’re stressed, exercising, hyperventilating, or sick, your breathing speeds up – and it gets harder to breathe. Don’t believe me? Sit down someplace safe and breathe as fast as you can for a bit – it’s exhausting! Please don’t pass out…

It’s like that when you have a cold, too. It gets tiring to breathe – staying calm will help use as little energy as possible, though. My 2nd boy and I both have asthma, which means things like a cold can be a big deal for us because it’s already harder to breathe. In other words, when he or I catch a cold, we may wake up several times at night in an absolute panic because we can’t breathe.

So whether you’ve got asthma (like us or not), the first thing we need to do is calm down – because we’re still breathing. It’s just harder. Calming down will help us breathe easier, get back to sleep, and heal faster.

Need help calming down? Here are 4 Easy, Kid-Friendly Relaxation Techniques to Stop Stressing Now.

2. Stay Comfortable and Take Your Medicine

When you’ve got a cold, life can be miserable. Thankfully, though, there’s medicine to help you feel better. Does that mean you HAVE to take medicine when you’ve got a cold? No, of course not. But if you’re miserable, at least consider it. And if you have asthma, I take back what I just said – you ought to use your inhaler.

Now, that being said, there are some other non-pharmacological medicines and treatments you can use. That’s fancy talk for – there’s other treatments you may want to use – and it doesn’t involve a pill.

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Here are still some tricks (both medicinal and non-medicinal) you can use:

  • Use a couple of pillows to prop yourself up while you sleep. Even raising your head a few degrees will help make breathing easier for you. Kids may resist this idea (and by may, I mean mine won’t do it).
  • Set up a humidifier and keep it going. We have this awesome animal humidifier on Amazon for years! My kids thought it was *awesome* when we set it up for them. Humidified air makes it easier to breathe for stuffy noses, nasty coughs, and if you have breathing problems in general. When our little humidifier finally bit the dust, we got this whole-house humidifying system and I LOVE IT. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my breathing year-round. Which, as an asthmatic, is amazing.
  • Use Tylenol/ibuprofen appropriately if you’ve got a fever. Fevers heat your body up – and make you breathe faster, too. Cool the fever to breathe easier. Remember: these medicines do NOT *cure* a fever: they just cool it for a few hours. You’re probably going to have to give/take more.
  • Drink water or electrolyte-replacing drinks as needed. Staying hydrated is IMPORTANT, people!
  • Take your personal medications as directed for a doctor.
    • As an asthmatic, I have two kinds of inhalers: one is a general controller that I take every day. When things are going well, I take the lower, daily dose. Then when I get sick, I adjust to my higher dose. And I start using my quick-acting (albuterol) inhaler as directed.
    • My nephew has diabetes – and when he gets sick, he has to make some adjustments in his insulin injections, but he follows the guidelines his doctors give him. What can I say? He’s a smart kid.
  • Contain the disease: washing hands is important, but so is staying away from healthy people.

Oh, and when I’m awake sick, I totally count cookie dough as medicine, too. 🙂

3. Keep Calm, Rest, & Do Some (More) Deep Breathing

Once medicated, situated, and calmed down, we have to *stay* calm. We have to rest. That’s because kicking a cold takes more than 15 minutes, so we’ll have to keep getting the rest, fluids, and medicine that we need to heal.

It’s time to do some deep breathing and/or have a Netflix binge marathon!

Thankfully, it’s not rocket science. It’s just not fast, either. Now’s a great time to catch up on that Curious George marathon TV show or to read a book.

4. Know Your Options and Consider Backup

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we end up needing some extra help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from doctors, nurses, or hospitals. My second son has been hospitalized for a bad cold twice. He needed oxygen therapy – and I can’t do that at home. Yeah – even us nurse types need help sometimes, too.

It’s hard, sometimes, when you don’t know what, exactly, is going on. It can be really hard to know which is the *right* resource to turn to for that help. Just try to use your best judgment. Then, hang in there and get better. You’ve got this.

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Kimberly C. Starr

I'm a ginger who loves reading, eating, being a nurse, spending time with my family, and writing about it all. I believe humor is the best medicine, followed very closely by chocolate and tacos. To read more about me, click here.

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