6 Answers to Common Cold Questions

View as Slideshow

1. How long can I use a nasal spray for a stuffy nose?

1. How long can I use a nasal spray for a stuffy nose?
Two to 3 days. Over-the-counter sprays containing phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) or oxymetazoline (Afrin, Dristan) shrink swollen blood vessels in the lining of your nose, allowing trapped mucus to drain. The good thing about the sprays is that they work almost instantaneously, and they won’t keep you awake at night or cause other side effects typical of oral decongestants. The downside is that, after 3 to 5 days, they can cause rebound congestion — the more you use them, the faster your nose gets stuffed up again after each spray, leading you to use more and more. To avoid this problem, some experts recommend using a spray for no more than 2 to 3 days at a time. Then stop for 3 days. If you’re still congested, it’s okay to use it again for 2 to 3 days.

2. Every time I renew my efforts to go to the gym, I seem to catch a cold. Is it all in my head?

2. Every time I renew my efforts to go to the gym, I seem to catch a cold. Is it all in my head?
You may be on to something. Intense exercise can decrease levels of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body temporarily and boost levels of stress hormones that may interfere with your immune system’s ability to fight off cold viruses. Coupled with the possibility that you’re picking up germs from gym equipment or in the locker room, your workouts might very well be making you sick. That doesn’t mean that all exercise opens the door to colds. In fact, a consistent, medium-intensity routine is a proven cold-stopper. Taking a brisk, 40-minute walk 4 days a week, for example, can cut the number of colds you experience by 25 to 50 percent and can make the colds you do catch shorter by half, studies show. Moderate exercise boosts the number and activity level of important immune-system players called natural killer cells.

3. How do I know if it’s a cold or the flu?

3. How do I know if it’s a cold or the flu?
Take your temperature and assess how you feel. If you have influenza, you will likely have a temperature (101°F or higher) and terrible headache, feel achy all over, and be incredibly tired. It’s rare to have a significant fever with a cold. The primary symptoms of a cold are a stuffy and/or runny nose, cough, and sore throat, which rarely occur with the flu. While you may feel tired if you have a cold, with the flu, you probably won’t be able to get out of bed.

Content continues below ad

4. Is there really a wrong way to blow your nose?

4. Is there really a wrong way to blow your nose?
Mom was right about this one. Vigorous honking really is counterproductive for two reasons. First, it triggers "reflex nasal congestion" — your nasal passages swell up temporarily, which traps mucus. Second, full-force nose blowing creates a vacuum deep in your sinus passages; once you stop blowing, mucus gets sucked backward, deeper into your sinuses. A better way to blow: With a tissue over both nostrils, close one side and gently blow the other for 3 to 5 seconds. Switch sides. It may take several blows, but it works.

5. If I have a runny nose from a cold, am I better off drying it up or letting it go?

5. If I have a runny nose from a cold, am I better off drying it up or letting it go?
Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. Congestion and a runny nose are side effects of your body’s efforts to fight off the viral infections that cause colds and flu. Reversing them with a decongestant won’t slow down healing and may in fact help you avoid complications like a sinus infection. To clear your nose, decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are more effective than those containing phenylephrine. A British study of 283 women and men with stuffy noses found that those who took 60 milligrams of pseudoephedrine reported a 30 percent drop in congestion after just one dose.

6. Should I take echinacea all the time or just during cold season?

6. Should I take echinacea all the time or just during cold season?
Don’t take echinacea every day, year-round. It’s not known for certain, but there’s reason to worry that taking this herb for longer than 2 months at a time may cause serious side effects, such as liver damage. Instead, use it in specific situations. Before cold season. To use echinacea to prevent the sniffles, start taking it a week or two before cold season starts. That’s a tricky date to pin down, depending on where you live, though in many parts of the world, that means late summer or early fall. If you take echinacea for the entire cold season, take at least a 1 week break every 2 months. At the first signs of a cold. Start taking it right away and you might feel better sooner. Before you fly. You might consider starting it a week before you’ll be exposed to others who might have colds, such as traveling by air, says University of Connecticut professor of pharmacy Craig I. Coleman, PharmD. The usual dose is 900 milligrams per day of echinacea extract or 2,700 milligrams of dried herb powder.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

Funny Jokes

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

Funny Jokes

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

Funny Jokes

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy