Health Watch -- Treating a Cold

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

As temperatures dip, cold season starts. What do you do to fight the fever, sneezing and runny nose?

Because there’s still no comprehensive cure for the common cold, we still just have to treat the symptoms. Over-the-counter medications can help you deal with the congestion, sneezing and fever that come with colds.

One thing you shouldn’t do, according to doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, is rely on an old piece of folklore. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” has been said over many a cold sufferer  – and what were you supposed to do if the patient had both a cold and a fever? Dr. Paul Pepe, UT Southwestern’s chairman of emergency medicine, says that old saying is just bad advice.

When you’re sick, whether you have a cold, fever or both, your body needs fuel to fight the illness. Starving the body weakens it in its battle with the germs.

Instead, when you get a cold, fever or any other kind of illness, you should eat a steady diet of nutritious foods. You should also keep yourself well-hydrated and get plenty of rest. Hot liquids – such as that old stand-by, chicken soup – may help open up sinus passages so you feel less congested.

Most colds should run their course in a few days. If your illness lingers longer than a week, you should see a doctor. If sneezing, sniffling and congestion are chronic at particular times of year, you may have allergies instead of a cold.