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What Can I Do for a Cold if I’m in Recovery?

Colds are miserable, and if you’re in recovery, it’s the last thing you need. You might have been doing pretty well, staying on track, then suddenly your nose is running, your throat hurts, and you’re making alarming noises when you cough. What can you do?

The bad news is that you should avoid cold medicine. Almost all liquid cold medicines contain alcohol, and other medicines contain either sedatives or stimulants. If you are in recovery, you don’t want that kind of temptation, nor do you want to use the excuse, “Well, I am sick, so it’s ok.” Sure, it’s a legitimate use, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause a relapse. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

The good news is that those cold medicines don’t really work anyway. A cold or flu is a virus and cold medicines do nothing to fight viruses. They only treat the symptoms. In fact, they usually prolong the cold. The symptoms–fever, loss of appetite, aches, fatigue–are your body’s way of fighting off the virus and helping you recover. If you take medication to reduce your fever or give you energy so you can get through your work day, you are impeding your body’s ability to fight the infection, meaning you will be sick longer. The only exception is prescription antiviral medication. If you want to go that route, be sure to tell your doctor about your addiction history and any medications you are on.

Most of the time, the best thing to do for a cold is stay in bed. Don’t eat if you don’t feel like it, because digestion takes energy away from fighting the infection. When you do eat, stick to chicken soup. It’s usually a good idea to stay away from caffeine when you’re sick. It speeds up your metabolism, it makes you jittery on an empty stomach, and it interferes with sleep. Instead, consider herbal tea, or hot water with lemon and honey if you want a hot drink.

If you feel like you have to take something, NSAIDS, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are generally safe for people in recovery and they can take the edge off the aches and swelling. Keep in mind, though, that the aches and swelling help fight the infection, so taking an NSAID, like cold medicines, is likely to prolong your illness.

Colds are no fun. You might not be able to take cold medicine, but the tradeoff is that you get to recover faster. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.