The other day I woke up with a dry, swollen throat. I figured it might have been an allergy-related issue and went about my day. I drank lots of water, took my multivitamins, and tried not to consider that this might be the start of a cold.
Today I am forced to admit: yup: this is a cold. The throat is now truly thrashed. Sinuses are blocked, tonsils are swollen and my voice... well, let’s just say it aint pretty.
Colds happen. Despite doing everything right, they can still pop up and bite you. And when you’re a voice artist, it means that you’ve just been given an involuntary vacation from your business.
And since I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to researching stuff, here are a five ways you can help fight a cold:
Get more rest - Feel groggy? Listless? All you want to do is curl up in bed and sleep? Do it! Mom always told me that more rest is good when you’re sick, but According to WebMD, it turns out she was right. When you get a cold, your body produces proteins called cytokines that can make you sleepy. Dont fight it: Get more rest.
Salt water gargle - According to Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies,” gargling with salt water is actually an effective way to fight the symptoms of a cold. A saline gargle helps to draw fluid from inflamed tissues in the back of the throat, making them less swollen. It also helps to loosen mucus buildup, which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat.
A study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that gargling with salt water three times a day during cold and flu season actually helped reduce respiratory infections in the patients observed by up to 40 percent. So throw a half teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and gargle away.
There are tons of people that swear by the neti pot with a salt water rinse to help them stay healthy. Personally, I can see the benefits of this, but I just can’t get past the fact that it feels like I’m being waterboarded. Your mileage may vary.
Hot tea - For me, the warm liquid feels good on the sore throat and it’s a good way of staying hydrated. I like using “Organic Throat Coat” by Traditional Medicinals - but after three cups, I just can’t stand the taste any longer and switch to green tea with citrus or mangosteen, or any one of the several dozen or so teas in my collection (in addition to being a research geek, I’m also a geek about tea) Make a big mug of the stuff and sip on it all day long. In the evening I may switch to hot toddies if the cold is really bad, or if I’m having trouble sleeping.
Hot Steam - one of the benefits of making yourself a mug of tea is a steaming kettle of water. Use that to your advantage: Drape a towel over your head and breathe in the steam. I’ve written previously about how a steam inhaler is an ideal way to warm up in the winter months, so if you have one of those, be sure to use it when you feel the symptoms of a cold coming on. The steam helps loosen and relax the sinus passages. The more freely you can breathe, the less likely something is to develop into an infection.
Chicken Soup - yes, we’ve all heard this one before. Chicken soup has been a recommended treatment of upper respiratory symptoms as far back as the 12th century BC, but there is honestly some serious science going on behind the old wives tales. You probably know about red and white blood cells, but what I didn't realize is that there are actually multiple types of white blood cells. One of them is called a neutrophil. These cells are a type of immune cell and are one of the first types of blood cells in the body to travel to the site of an infection. A paper published in the Journal for the American College of Chest Physicians showed that chicken soup actually inhibits neutrophil migration - meaning that the soup helps keep the immune cells in contact with the infection longer.
In the end, the best thing to do is to give your body the opportunity to fight the cold. Don’t exercise, don’t try to pretend it’s not happening to you. The more you ignore it the worse it can get. It may also be a good idea to see your doctor if the symptoms get worse.
Listen to your body. It’s trying to tell you that you’ve just been given permission to spend the day in your pajamas dozing on the couch while watching Netflix.
About Rob Marley - A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the Hill Country of Austin Texas. Image courtesy: Gnome Icon Artists under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license