Feel Better Faster

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Until scientists discover a cure for the common cold (let's hope cancer comes first!), you'll have to rely on over-the-counter products -- specifically those containing Consumer Reports-approved ingredients like chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, oxymetazoline, and pseudoephedrine -- to ease symptoms while your body naturally preps an army of antibodies to attack the invading virus. This process generally takes at least three to four days and can't be rushed. And beware: You can unintentionally slow down the process by overmedicating. If your body gets too used to medicines, such as nasal spray, symptoms can return once you stop using them, so follow package directions or your doctor's orders.

Feel Better with Sleep

As tempting as it is to stay up and comfort yourself with an entire season of Mad Men, step away from the Netflix and get some much-needed shut-eye. "Getting plenty of sleep when you're sick is good because one, it keeps you out of circulation so that you're not spreading it in the office, and two, it's going to help the immune system combat the flu," says Mark Opp, Ph.D., a professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. And on a related note, a good night's rest is particularly crucial the night before getting a flu shot. Opp says of a 14-day study involving healthy college students, those who slept eight hours a night on average produced twice as many antibodies against the flu shot as individuals who got only four hours of sleep on average. Bottom line: Don't get the vaccine when you're in serious sleep debt.

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More from Women's Health:

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Feel Better with Exercise

Before you decide to sweat off the sniffles, do the neck check. "If symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose and scratchy throat, then you are likely fine to exercise at a moderate intensity," says Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. After a day in bed, step outside for some fresh air: Women who walked briskly for 35 to 45 minutes, five days a week for three to four months recovered from cold symptoms in half the time of their sedentary counterparts, according to the ACSM. "However, if your symptoms are below the neck, like achy muscles and joints or fever, then you should take time off," Bushman says. Too much stress on an already weakened body could have an opposite effect and actually prolong the infection.

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More from Women's Health:

The Best OTC Medications

Is It a Cold Or Flu?

Germ Proof Your Office

7 Home Remedies For Cold and Flu

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