Montana Public Radio

6 Tips To Relieve A Common Cold: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Jan 14, 2017

Hi!  I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck. I’m a naturopathic family physician and I’m here today to talk about ways to feel better when you’ve got a COLD.

Everybody knows what a cold is, right? Stuffy nose, watery eyes. Your head feels heavy and your throat is scratchy.  You just don’t feel good.

Sometimes colds turn in to something worse, like bronchitis, which is an infection in your lungs, or otitis, an ear infection.  Most of the time though, colds are just colds and they go away after a week or two.

If you want to feel better sooner than in a week and you want to feel better during the time that you have a cold, here are a few tips to help your body fight the germs that caused the cold: First, and you might already know this, drink lots of water. Not soda, not juice – they have too much sugar which doesn’t help your cold.  Drink plain water or tea. Peppermint tea is especially good for colds because the steam from the tea helps break up mucus – that thick gunk that runs out of your nose. Inhaling peppermint steam lets you breath more easily.  Peppermint is also soothing to your stomach which can get upset from swallowing a lot of mucus during a cold.

When your parents give you a cup of hot peppermint tea to drink, take a couple minutes to breathe in the steam coming off of your cup. Breathing that steam will thin the gunk in your nose and make it easier to blow it all out.

Second, eat oranges (unless you’re allergic to them). Oranges have lots of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which are nutrients which help us fight colds. Orange juice just isn’t as good as a whole orange. Remember, juice has lots of sugar.  And with juice you miss out on the parts of the orange which contain the good medicine – the fleshy, fibrous, white bits that hold each section of the orange together. So eat oranges, several of them a day when you have a cold. Grapefruit and tangerines are also good medicine.

Third, ask your parents to make you simple food when you have a cold. Things that are watery and easy to digest. That means soup, vegetables, apple sauce, even baked chicken, fish or toast. Try to avoid dairy products, things like milk, cheese and ice cream because eating them can make your mucus, that thick gunk, much worse.

The fourth tip is one you might not like but when your Mom says to button up your coat, she’s right. When you have a cold, it’s best not to get chilled. When you get chilly, your body has to work hard to keep you warm and it can’t work hard to fight your cold. So if you have a cold, and it’s cold outside, zip up or button up your coat, put on a hat and maybe even gloves before you go outside.

This tip you might like: exercise. When you’ve got a cold, a walk in the fresh air is excellent medicine. It's best not to run around a lot and get sweaty and hot and tired because that will make your cold last longer. Instead, take a quiet walk outside; breathe deeply and take time to notice the birds and the trees and the pretty things around you. Then go inside, and rest. Finally, when you have a cold, get lots of sleep. If it’s hard to go to bed early, take a warm bath with Epsom salts. A grown-up can buy Epsom salts at the grocery store. Put 1 or 2 cups in your bath and soak in it for 15 minutes. Epsom salts have magnesium, a mineral that helps your muscles relax and it will make you sleepy.

So to review, my six tips for the common cold are: drinks lots of water and peppermint tea; eat oranges, grapefruit or tangerines; eat simple foods; button up your coat and wear a hat when you go outside to exercise gently in the outdoors; and get lots of sleep.

Everything I said today is true and can help if you have a cold. But remember kids: You need to check with your parents before you take any medicine or do any treatments for an illness.

I hope you don’t get a cold this year, but if you do, I hope you feel better quickly!

I’m Dr. Starbuck, and I’m wishing you well.

Dr. Starbuck and Bunny
Credit Laurie Childs

Jamison Starbuck, JD, ND, is a naturopathic family physician and the owner of One Doc Naturopathic Medicine, a family medicine clinic in Missoula, Montana.  Dr. Starbuck has been in private, primary care practice for over twenty-seven years.  She is a past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Dr. Starbuck did her undergraduate work at Middlebury College, in Middlebury, Vermont, majoring in history and art history.  She graduated from Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon and from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.  Dr. Starbuck is a licensed naturopathic family physician and a licensed attorney member of the Montana State Bar.

Since 1995, Dr. Starbuck has written a monthly column for Bottom Line Health, a national newsletter/magazine. She is dedicated to the concept of physician as teacher and frequently offers public lectures and classes. Dr. Starbuck is a member of Missoula Kiwanis and serves on their Board as Treasurer.

In her spare time, Dr. Starbuck tends to her animals – a horse, dogs, chickens and a cat, her gardens and spends lots of time outdoors, celebrating life with nature in beautiful Montana.