The common cold can be prevented with healthy habits, healthy diet, and less stress

The greatest disease is the absence of peace. When the mind is peaceful, your body will be healthy.

Sathya Sai Baba, Sep 21, 1960, Discourse delivered at Prashanti Nilayam

The common cold is one of the most common maladies. It, as with many other conditions, has been associated with increased stress. 1, 2 Children may develop 6-8 episodes of the common cold per year while adults get 4-6 episodes per year.3 These episodes account for 40% of all time lost from work and 30% of all days missed at school. 4 There are more than 200 types of viruses that are associated with the common cold.5 The majority of sinus infections and sore throats are really just common colds and are needlessly over-treated.6 The most common symptoms include:

  • Runny nose (sniffles)
  • Trouble breathing through the nose (congestion)
  • Headache and/or facial pressure
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

As with all conditions, prevention is the best medicine. A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables coupled with daily exercise are the most important components of preventing the common cold. Stress results in diminished immune response7 and therefore yields a higher risk of catching a cold. Reduction of stress with daily meditation, time spent in nature and in service to our community does wonders in keeping one in a good state of both mental and physical health. 

Hand-washing prevents the spread of disease

The most common way these illnesses are transmitted is hand to mouth/nose/eyes contact. Therefore, prevent getting the disease by keeping the hands clean and avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth with the fingers is important. Prevent spreading the disease by covering your coughs and sneezes with your arm/elbow.

Most times the condition will resolve itself via the body’s own immune system within a week or two. Rather than taking strong medications, it is better to initially treat with natural, safe remedies such as getting rest, drinking plenty of water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and using a gentle saltwater rinse (using one teaspoon table salt with 8 ounces of boiled water cooled to body temperature) for the nose and mouth. A common mistake is to over-treat with over the counter nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants and anti-fever or pain medications. It is recommended to have patience and let the body’s own defense mechanisms and immune system restore health and balance.

If after 1-2 weeks symptoms are not improving, then consideration for treatment with anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and nasal steroid sprays such as fluticasone may be helpful. If high fever (over 102) or pains develop, earlier treatment may be done. Antibiotics should be avoided as much as possible unless symptoms last longer than 10 days and/or are causing significant symptoms. 

What about the Flu? The next article on “Common Cold Versus the Flu” clarifies some of the differences in identifying and managing the illness.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the SSIO. This article is for your information only. No advice is given or intended by these articles.  Any changes to your life that may possibly affect your health should be done only after consultation with your physician.


1. Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold

2. Protective and damaging effects of mediators of stress. Elaborating and testing the concepts of allostasis and allostatic load

3. Common diseases: their nature, incidence and care

4. Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Children and Adults: Burden and Management

5. Common cold

6. Epidemiology of viral respiratory infections

7. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry