Step 5: Pop some pills
If you can muster up the strength to go to the drugstore, don’t even give those megadose vitamin C concoctions a passing glance. You’re not a pirate fighting scurvy. For 99% of the population, vitamin C does absolutely nothing for treating and preventing colds, so you can disregard ads that promise otherwise.
On the opposite end of the vitamin alphabet is another popular cold remedy: zinc lozenges. Unlike vitamin C’s uselessness, zinc might -- *might* -- have some actual benefits. Studies are mixed, but recent ones have indicated that taking zinc within 24 hours of feeling symptoms might actually shorten the cold by a couple days. However, zinc can have some unpleasant side effects, especially on the stomach, so proceed with caution.
One pill you can actually count on is a mild pain reliever. Studies have shown that it doesn’t really matter if it’s acetaminophen or aspirin, though aspirin does have a lot going for it. Decongestants like Sudafed can help with the sinus mess if you absolutely have to be in public, but they’re not recommended for everyone.
Step 6: Eat, sleep, and be merry
Colds have a knack for destroying your appetite. Don’t force-feed yourself, but make sure whatever you’re eating is nutritious. Your immunity needs all the help it can get -- and cookies are not “help." Once you’re packed with saline solution, aspirin, honey, chicken soup, and steam... try to get some sleep. If this means skipping work, do it (you didn’t hear that from us)! Lack of sleep and stress work hand in hand to make you sick and keep you sick longer. We seriously can’t stress (pun!) enough the importance of relaxing and sleeping if you’re trying to beat a cold. There may be some debate out there over various home remedies for colds, but sleep isn't one of them.
Step 7: Repeat
Try this for a couple days, and you should be right as rain in no time. If you take all these steps, and things only get worse or stick around for more than a week, you guessed it: it’s doctor time. Life is full of annoying, unavoidable crap. Colds may be crap, but with a little effort, they don’t have to end up all over the bottoms of your shoes.
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Nicholas Knock is a freelance writer for Thrillist who named his humidifier Smaug. You can follow him on Twitter: @nickaknock.