How to Get Rid of a Cold In 24 Hours

If you feel a common cold coming on, don't let it knock you out. Start this doctor-approved plan for how to cure a cold fast — overnight fast.

Person in bed, drinking a glass of water.

When the first cold symptoms strike, pulling the covers over your head and praying to the decongestant gods can feel like your only option. But you don't have to resign yourself to days or weeks of feeling lousy: Knowing how to get rid of a cold fast can shorten your sickness.

Here, experts share how to cure a cold fast, overnight. Follow these tips after the first sniffle or sneeze, and you'll bounce back to your healthy self in just 24 hours.

7 a.m. Step into a hot shower.

Want to know how to get rid of a cold in 24 hours? You'll want to follow these steps ASAP — yes, that means first thing in the morning. It can be hard to drag yourself out of bed when you wake up with aches and sniffles, but a steamy shower can clear the stuffiness that gets exacerbated from sleeping flat all night. The mist and humidity help loosen mucus and clear your sinuses so you can breathe easier, says E. Neil Schachter, M.D., author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu. (Pro tip: Try hanging eucalyptus in the shower to up the decongesting benefits.)

8 a.m. Take two teaspoons of elderberry syrup.

Hit up a health food store for elderberry syrup if you're trying to get rid of a common cold (unless you're taking immunosuppressant drugs, in which case, avoid elderberry). It's made from — you guessed it — elderberries, which have antiviral properties and boost the immune system, says Heather Jeney, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist in New Jersey. Take 2 teaspoons of the syrup up to three times a day to lessen the intensity and duration of a cold or flu.

Bonus: This also works as a preventative measure if you've been exposed to someone sick with the common cold (think: your snotty toddler or your sneezing coworker).

9 a.m. Skip cereal and coffee in favor of eggs and tea.

Simply eating a different breakfast might help with getting rid of a cold. Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids — important since studies show that protein ups the body's ability to fight infection. Pair your omelet or over-easies with a steaming cup of tea with lemon and honey. "Honey works better than a prescription cough syrup at easing a cough by coating the back of the throat," says Zeyad Baker, M.D., of Baker Pediatrics in Edgewater, New Jersey. (Here are 20 quick and easy ways to cook eggs if you need some inspo.)

12:30 p.m. Sprinkle your salad with chickpeas and pumpkin seeds.

Both toppings are good sources of zinc — a nutrient that helps boost your body's response to infection and reduce inflammation. There's evidence that shows that taking zinc within the 24 hours of a cold can help shorten the duration and intensity, says Dr. Schachter. Alternatively, stop into a drug store for zinc lozenges and suck on two a day until your cold subsides.

2 p.m. Refill your water bottle.

Your water bottle probably doesn't come to mind when you're contemplating how to cure a cold fast, overnight. But hydration is crucial when you're fighting off an illness since a low-grade fever increases the amount of liquid that evaporates from the body, putting you at a higher risk for dehydration. Moreover, getting adequate fluids helps your body wash away mucus that accumulates in the nose and throat, says Dr. Schachter. Make it a point to drink two more cups than you normally consume — and FYI, tea and soups count toward your daily quota.

3 p.m. Take a walk.

When you're dragging, a 20-minute stroll around the block can lift your energy and help your symptoms. Moderate exercising such as walking can help stimulate deep breaths and open your nasal passages so you can breathe easier. Exercise, too, increases the number of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, which helps control the immune system, according to a study in the journal Gut.

6:30 p.m. Sip on chicken soup.

Your mom was on to something when she said that sipping chicken soup was the best way to get rid of a cold: The vapor and ingredients in chicken soup can suppress chemicals that cause inflammation in the body, notes Dr. Schachter. Even if you can't get your hands on mom's homemade version, plain old canned soup works just as well in helping fight off the cold, according to a study published in the journal Chest.

9 p.m. Clear your nose and throat.

Mucus that doesn't drain can fester during the night and cause an infection, so it's crucial to de-gunk before bed. Use a saline rinse or saltwater gargle to draw out fluid and bacteria, recommends Dr. Schachter. (Or try a neti pot to flush out your nose.)

10 p.m. Hit the sack.

Staying up to catch up on late-night TV is not going to help you cure a cold fast, overnight. Your body needs at least seven hours of shut-eye to fend off sickness, according to research. To sleep soundly when you're stuffy, add an extra pillow to raise your head higher, which helps the sinuses drain to keep your nasal passages open and clear, says Dr. Schachter. (Still sniffling? Here's a day-by-day guide if your cold symptoms persist past 24 hours.)

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