How to Stop a Cold

by Steven Carney on February 25, 2015

This is post #119 on the site, about how to stop a cold from taking hold. The approach may also help with other infections, such as non-acute sinus or ear infections.

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It’s cold and flu season and colds are especially common this time of year. In fact, adults average about 2-3 colds per year, and children average about 5. Colds often last 1-2 weeks, so they can be disruptive and annoying (sneezing, coughing, clogged sinuses, sinus pressure, poor sleep, tasteless food, etc.). And get this: the total number of annual colds in the U.S. is about 1 billion! That’s a lot of tissue! I haven’t had a real cold in 4-5 years, so I’m sharing some of my secrets for How to Stop a Cold from Taking Hold!

Many people try to treat the symptoms of a cold after its already taken hold. This is more difficult to do, as the horse is out of the barn, so to speak. But there are tips and tricks to prevent a cold from taking hold and to recover faster. So what is some ways to ward off the common cold and shorten its duration and intensity?

NOTE: The following are some general suggestions for beating a cold. These are focused on adults and it’s really best to work with a certified coach to help you match these approaches to your individual lifestyle.

Start a month or two before for best results

In truth, a compromised immune system leaves you more susceptible to catching a cold or sinus infection and it will tend to last longer. There are hundreds of rhino viruses so it’s hard to outrun them all after the fact! So you need to look at your lifestyle to build up your immune system to stay healthier (yes, your lifestyle is a big contributor to your immune health)!

Sadly, most people live with an old beater of an immune system, barely running on a few cylinders! Why not have a high-performance immune system that purrs like a kitten at rest but roars to life like a race car when it’s challenged?

To help optimize your immune system and keep it battle ready, you need a decent diet and lifestyle, built around whole, healthy foods and good habits! For a race-car immune system, here are some basic tips:

  • Move away from sugar, soda and processed carbs (they trigger damaging, systemic inflammation and degrade your immune system)
  • Eat lots of unprocessed veggies and whole fruits to boost micronutrients
  • Get quality proteins (without hormones, antibiotics or preservatives like nitrates)
  • Watch the fried foods, often high in omega-6 oils (they also increase inflammation and acrylamides)
  • Take a good quality multivitamin (such as those tested by the USP) to provide a good foundation and balance of vitamins and minerals (your immune system depends on those to function at its best)
  • Get your vitamin D tested annually (vitamin D helps regulate immune function; aim for test levels of 40-50 ng/mL for vitamin D3)
  • Get quality sleep (7-8 hours works best for most and is critical for immune health)
  • Manage stress with exercise or relaxation (stress lowers your immune function so walk or relax/meditate for 15-20 minutes daily)

As a coach, I can help you build this kind of healthy lifestyle, so you’re immune system will be ready to battle any invaders should you be under attack from a virus or bacteria. You’ll also feel better, sleep better and look younger, so there are many good benefits from this approach!

You feel a cold coming on

Assuming that you’ve been making good choices and leading a healthy lifestyle for a few months, you should already have better immune function. But sometimes, you may be exposed to a cold virus that starts to take hold. So here’s what to do if you feel that telltale sore throat or runny nose starting up.


For that early onset sore throat or runny nose, start right in! You can do some gentle massage in the throat and neck area, which can help to clear the swollen lymph nodes (see video/article links below). Once enlarged, massaging your lymph nodes 1-2 times per day can help to clear those swollen nodes to reduce the pain, while helping your immune system to work more efficiently.


You can help to clear sinuses if those are starting to get clogged and you can’t breathe freely. There are a number of points you can massage to help clear your sinuses and lymph nodes. There are several areas around the eyes, nose, checks and jaw. Again, see links and videos below for more details.


You can take 20-25 Mg of zinc (in addition to what’s in a multivitamin, staying around 35-40 Mg total), especially in the more bioavailable picolinate form. These simple tablets are better than lozenges because they don’t have the added sugar/sweeteners, artificial coloring, etc. Some studies have shown that extra zinc for a few days can slow or prevent a cold virus from replicating, and the picolinate form is one of the best absorbed. And for fighting infection, zinc is critical for keeping your immune system at its peak (see links below).

Now taking too much zinc for more than a few days can throw off your mineral balances, especially copper. I suggest taking that quality multi in the morning so you start off with a good overall balance. Then add some zinc in the afternoon or evening. That way, any mineral imbalance will be temporary as you will take the multi again the next morning. See if taking the extra zinc for 3-4 days helps slow or stop the cold’s progression.

Also, most people do better with a good 500-1,000 mg from a quality vitamin C daily (taken in several smaller doses) and not just cheap ascorbic acid (try to find one with bioflavonoids), because most multivitamins don’t have much vitamin C. But to be sure how much you might need, it’s best to work with a certified health coach who can help you ascertain your lifestyle and needs for all nutrients, including vitamin C.


You can buy some guaifenesin in tablet form (so again, no additives). Guaifenesin is an expectorant originally derived from tree bark and used for hundreds of years (see links below). You take it with water (and stay well hydrated) as it helps to draw water into the mucus, making it thinner and easier to clear. This works in the sinuses or lungs if you do develop a cough. I keep some 400 MG tabs around. They are scored so I can even do one-half a tab if I need less. Remember, the lining of your nose, sinuses and airways increase mucus secretions to help flush out the virus or bacteria if you have been exposed to them. This approach of watering the mucus down will use that flushing system to your benefit, and by keeping it flowing (and it’s also being used to help Fibromyalgia symptoms).


Some cold remedies include a decongestant, but they can be counterproductive when you have a cold or congestion. That’s because decongestants dry out the mucus and make it thicker, making it harder to eliminate. When I have tried those approaches in the past, I’ve noticed it took even longer to clear the sinuses and/or cough, which lingered after the actual cold was over. So they can be counterproductive by prolonging the symptoms (the mucus will often be full of the virus or bacteria so you want to flush it out as it comes, not make it thicker so it stays)!


For best results, you can start all of these approaches on the first day, although that means it’s best to be prepared and have some zinc and guaifenesin tablets at home. You can take them at different times, but get them all going on that first day. You can really go after the cold by helping to support your immune health and function!

Now you might be thinking, “This is a lot of work (massaging lymph nodes, taking the tablets, etc.). I’d rather take an OTC cough and cold remedy.” But guess what? They cure nothing, they only treat symptoms. That’s why your cold lasts longer! Those OTC syrups and pills make you think you are better but they mask the symptoms, they don’t help you heal, prevent the virus from taking hold as significantly, and they don’t really help you or recover! They exist to boost sales for that company (like so many drugs)! Why not learn some approaches (like the neck massage) and make choices that will really make a difference and get you back to normal faster?


You can add things like warm salt-water gargles and/or saline nasal sprays/flushing with a netti pot. These can be done as needed, but by starting on the initial steps I mentioned, those rinses may not be necessary (they can be a bit messy).

If you have made good progress after 3-4 days, consider cutting back on the zinc and guaifenesin by only taking half a tablet. Hopefully, the cold will fade faster then usual. With luck, you’re over it in far less time and back to normal function and activities, making a cold a far less disruptive experience.

And if these seem like too much work, remember that most OTC cough and cold syrups and pills treat symptoms but don’t really support your immune system or heal the body. They should be your last resort, not your first. Try the other approaches for a few days. You might find they make a real difference and you won’t need those other OTC drugs!

A related note:

These same approaches can potentially help with sinus infections or mild ear infections which share many interconnected structures and lymphatics (remember, the middle ear drains through the eustachian tube into the lower sinuses). But should you have acute sinus pain, headaches, or ear pain, it’s best to get an exam so you can be sure of the cause).

Then consider these and other alternatives to antibiotics, which continue to be over prescribed. Also, a cold can sometimes cause a sinus infection as the bacteria can multiply in the mucus that fill the sinus cavities, turning a cold into a longer-lasting health problem.

These related infections also serve to remind us that keeping the immune system functioning well should be a priority and something we all need to value! Don’t take your immune system for granted! It’s one of your most important systems!

As an example of an unexpected ear infection, I blew my nose really hard one time and I heard the left eustachian tube crackle loudly (you’ve probably heard that sound yourself). I apparently blew some mucus up into my left eustachian tube and middle ear. After a few days, I felt some pressure and I noticed my hearing was slightly muffled (although no significant pain). But the feeling of pressure and muffled hearing are common symptoms of a middle ear infection.

I used the lymph massage techniques in the video below (there are some different ones for the middle ear compared to a sore throat and sinus congestion, see links below), nasal rinses and the other approaches I outlined above. Those helped to clear the lymph nodes, and also helped to clear up the infection without antibiotics!

Helpful links: 

Lymph massage for an ear infection:

© 2015 by Steven Carney/End Sickness Now


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