You can’t sweat out a cold, and trying to could make it harder for you to recover

If you try to sweat out a cold, you risk dehydration.

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If you try to sweat out a cold, you risk dehydration.
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Werayuth Tes / Shutterstock

  • If you try to sweat out a cold, you risk dehydrating yourself. This can backfire and prevent you from recovering as fast.
  • When you have a fever, doctors recommend acetaminophen to lower your fever and prevent you from sweating and subsequent fluid loss.
  • Research suggests that regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of catching a cold.
  • This article was reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There are plenty of ways to get over a cold. Eat the right foods. Get plenty of rest. And stay hydrated.

But there are other cold “remedies” you might come across that, well, just aren’t as helpful. One is “sweating out a cold.”

Why you can’t sweat out a cold

The biggest concern with trying to sweat out a cold is that you’re losing fluids, which can dehydrate you. And that’s obviously the opposite of what you need.

“When you’re sick, one of the most important things is to stay hydrated,” says Joshua Septimus, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Now, a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences involving mice says that the common viral strain for the cold, called rhinovirus, thrived most in temperatures below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. So the theory was that increasing your body temperature beyond that (ie. sweating) would prevent the virus from thriving.

But Septimus says there’s no data showing that increased body temperature helps fight a cold, and, we are not mice. In fact, we want to minimize fluid loss from sweating, which is one of the reasons why doctors recommend acetaminophen when you have a fever.

When sweating can help

Regular exercise can help you build a strong immune system to fend off infections like the cold.

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Regular exercise can help you build a strong immune system to fend off infections like the cold.
source
Shutterstock

Sweating might not get rid of a cold, but there are activities related to sweating that can help you fend off a cold or relieve symptoms. For example, exercise.

A 2015 study published in Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science suggested that immune-boosting effects from moderate exercise could help prevent colds. But the study also suggested that too much exercise had the opposite effect.

Exercise can also help decrease nasal congestion for a short time. The key thing to remember, Septimus says, is to listen to your body. If symptoms are mild and there is no fever, aches, or serious fatigue, exercise could be beneficial.

But rest when you need it. Fever, aches, and feeling weak are signs of distress and exercise could further tax your immune system. This could possibly cause the worst part of a cold to last longer than its typical three to five days, Septimus says.

Sitting in a hot, steamy room – like your bathroom with the door closed and a hot shower going – can also help. You’ll probably start to sweat from the heat and humidity, but it’s not the sweat that’s important – it’s the steam. Breathing it in can temporarily relieve your congestion.

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