Can You Sweat Out a Cold?

Some sweaty activities might help symptoms

Having nasal congestion, a cough, and a sore throat can leave you miserable. It’s natural to look for a possible quick fix for the common cold, including sweating it out.

While light exercise or inhaling steam might help alleviate symptoms temporarily, there’s no way to get over a cold quickly. The common cold will take seven to 10 days to resolve for most people. 

This article will outline symptoms of the common cold. It will answer common questions, including “Can I sweat out a cold?” and “Should I exercise when sick?” Read on to learn about cold symptom relief and why there’s no quick fix to cure a cold. 

Hot steamy shower

Takao Onozato / Aflo / Getty Images

Why You Can't Sweat Out a Cold

Viruses cause common colds. You can contract the virus when other people cough or sneeze and you unintentionally inhale the virus. The most common virus that causes the common cold is rhinovirus, although other viruses also can be the culprit. 

Once viruses are in your body, they begin to reproduce. In response to that, your body mounts an immune reaction. In fact, some cold symptoms, like congestion, may be signs that your immune system is fighting the infection.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. Once the virus is in your body and reproducing, sweating will not affect it. You’ll only feel better after your immune system has fought the virus. That takes seven to 10 days for most people. 

Inhaling Hot, Humid Air

Although sweating it out won’t cure a cold, some warm activities can help with symptoms. Breathing in hot, humid air, such as in a warm shower, a steam room, from a humidifier, or from a vaporizer, can help reduce cold symptoms like congestion. To avoid spreading your cold, you should do this at home.

Saunas have dry heat instead of the humid heat of a steam room or warm shower. Although a trip to the sauna won’t cure your cold, some older studies that have not been replicated (the same findings have not been reproduced) in the past 30 years suggested regularly visiting a sauna might help prevent colds.

Exercising When Sick

Exercise gets your blood pumping, and the increase in circulation might temporarily alleviate nasal congestion. Because of that, some people find that light exercise, like a walk, helps them feel better with a cold. 

However, if you overdo it, you might make things worse. Rest and hydration are critical for getting over a cold. While movement might feel good, now isn’t the time to push your body. In addition, it’s important to avoid gyms or other public places where you could spread your cold.

Stages of a Cold

Most people with the common cold will have symptoms for seven to 10 days. It can be helpful to think of your cold in the following stages:

  • Early: After you’re exposed to a cold virus, it will begin replicating in your body. It can take between one and three days for symptoms to appear. During that time, you might experience minor symptoms, like feeling tired. 
  • Active: Once your body has mounted an immune response to the cold, you’ll experience intense symptoms, like a runny nose, cough, and tiredness. 
  • Lingering: Usually, symptoms of a cold don’t last longer than 10 days. If they do, you should contact your healthcare provider. Unfortunately, a cough might sometimes linger even as other symptoms clear. 

Tips for Recovery

There’s no way to cure a cold once you’ve been infected. However, the following steps can help promote healing and make you more comfortable:

  • Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated can reduce congestion and make you more comfortable overall. Sip water, tea, and soup to keep your hydration levels up. 
  • Rest: Resting lets your body spend energy fighting the virus. Sleep up to 10 hours each night and avoid strenuous exercise. 
  • Humidify the air: Dry air can make your nasal passages susceptible to viruses, so using a humidifier is always a good idea during the winter. When you’re sick, humid air can help ease congestion. 
  • Don’t smoke: Smoking can irritate your upper respiratory system, which is already fighting the cold.

Unfortunately, there’s no solid evidence that common at-home remedies, including vitamin C, zinc, and others, will reduce the duration of a cold. Over-the-counter cold medicines won’t help cure your cold either, but they can make you feel better, and they are safe for adults when taken as directed.

Summary

There’s no way to cure a cold—or sweat it out. Breathing in warm, moist air can help alleviate cold symptoms, like congestion. Light exercise can increase blood flow, which also might help with congestion. However, there’s no quick fix. Most people will have cold symptoms for seven to 10 days. 

A Word From Verywell

Colds are miserable but common. Most adults will get three colds each year, and kids will get even more. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for the cold. To help yourself heal and protect others from contracting a cold, take it easy and stay home until your symptoms have resolved completely. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a way to get rid of a cold overnight?

    There’s no proven way to shorten the duration of a cold. Colds are caused by viruses that must run their course. There is no cure for a cold. 

  • What are the signs that a cold is getting better?

    As you begin to heal, you might notice symptoms reducing. You might have more energy, less congestion, and be coughing less. These are signs that your cold is getting better. If symptoms get better, then worse again, it’s best to talk with a doctor. 

  • How long are you contagious with a cold?

    You’re most contagious during the first two to three days that you have symptoms of a cold. Unfortunately, you can pass a cold for two weeks, so it’s best to try to avoid other people and wear a mask for 14 days after noticing cold symptoms.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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