The average cold lasts seven to ten days, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Ten days? No thanks. Unless you want to waste all your PTO days on a miserable cold, listen up. What you eat and how your go about your day can have a profound effect on how long your cold will stick around. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor about any sickness, but our expert Angela Lemond, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gave us some insight on what foods and habits tend to keep you blowing your nose for days. If you just can't kick your cold, one of these seven things could be the cause.
“Dairy does not increase mucus production!” says Lemond. This is one of the biggest myths out there when it comes to colds. “It may cause phlegm to seem thicker," she says. "But it does not cause more production. Some actually think it soothes their sore throats, and milk is loaded with immune-boosting nutrients. Therefore, I do not tell people to eliminate dairy while congested.”
Use your judgment here, but when in doubt ask your doctor or just rest. “You should definitely not work out if you are running a fever," says Lemond. "But it gets more liberal if you are dealing with a bit of stuffy nose or congestion in the head. You should just rest if you have body aches and excessive chest congestion.”
We get it: As soon as you feel like crap, you feel like eating more crap. But your body needs whole, nutrient-rich foods now more than ever.
Stay far away from sugar when you’re under the weather. “Eating excessive sugar in one sitting (>100 grams; equivalent to 20-ounce cola and a candy bar) has shown to lower the immune system for at least two hours," says Lemond "High sugar foods have a tendency to be lower in nutrients as well."
Even when you’re healthy it’s hard to get enough rest, but you need to put an emphasis on it when you’re suffering from a cold. Your body is in recovery mode and needs time to recover—a.k.a. sleep! Lack of sleep is one of the greatest immune suppressors, according to Lemond.
Another major immunity killer is stress. We all experience it on a daily basis, but it’s really important to find ways to manage it in a healthy way. It turns out you really can worry yourself sick. A study published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences found that stress makes your body more vulnerable to disease.
“Inadequate hydration hasn't shown to prolong the common cold, but it can cause immune suppression in prevention. Remember, the lymphatic system needs proper fluid status to rid toxins from the body,” says Lemond. Drink up to flush all that bad stuff out of your system. Your body needs water to stay healthy and function properly.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over-the-counter medicine can help relieve cold symptoms, but they don’t actually make your cold go away faster. Rest, relaxation, and a healthy diet are your best bets here.