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No, you can’t cure a cold by ‘sweating it out’

Health experts warn that too much sweating can cause dehydration, which could make it harder for a person to get better when they’re fighting a cold.

Cold season is here and just about every family has that one home remedy that they swear by when it comes to fighting off a cold. We asked VERIFY viewers and a few people on our team to share some of their favorite cold remedies. 

According to VERIFY viewer Anita, eating two cloves of raw garlic and drinking tea mixed with raw honey, lemon, ginger and turmeric have helped her get over a cold. VERIFY researcher Mauricio says drinking a hot sugarcane limeade can make you break a sweat and works like a charm to fight cold symptoms. And VERIFY producer Tamika says her grandmother insists on rubbing down with Jamaican white rum and wrapping up in a blanket to sweat her colds out. 

Most of the cold remedies we got in the VERIFY inbox had one thing in common: their goal is to make you “sweat out the cold.”

We took these remedies to the experts and they weighed in on whether “sweating out a cold” is actually a cure. 

THE QUESTION

Can you cure a cold by “sweating it out?”

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, you can’t cure a cold by “sweating it out.” 

WHAT WE FOUND

According to the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are no cures for the common cold. When a person comes down with a cold, their symptoms usually start around two to three days after the virus enters their system and it typically lasts from several days to several weeks. 

When a person is fighting off a virus like the common cold, their body temperature may increase slightly, causing them to sweat. When that sweat evaporates, it can cause a cooling sensation. But Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, warns that too much sweating can cause dehydration, which could make it harder for a person to get better. 

“Sweating out is an energy-efficient manner to dealing with an elevated body temperature. That's it,” Dr. Galiatsatos told VERIFY. “If it relieves symptoms, sure — nothing wrong with feeling a little bit better during a time where you feel bad, but my bigger concern is you're pushing yourself more to dehydration because that sweat is not the virus. It's just literally your hydration.” 

Dr. Galiatsatos says staying hydrated is one of the best ways a person can fight off just about any infection, including the common cold.  

“You’ve got to stay hydrated. That to me is one of the best and most efficient ways to assure that you have a fighting chance of resolving these colds in an expedited fashion,” said Dr. Galiatsatos.

Health experts at Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic recommend a list of cold remedies that may help a person feel better and stay hydrated while fighting a cold. 

“Whether it's tea, warm water with lemon or broth, drinking warm liquids can be soothing, prevent dehydration and ease congestion,” according to Johns Hopkins. “Ice chips are another simple way to stay hydrated and calm a scratchy throat.” 

More from VERIFY: No, gargling salt water doesn’t cure a sore throat, but it may help relieve the pain

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