Is a Hot Bath Good for a Cold? Soothe a Sore Throat & Stuffy Nose
By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated
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There's nothing quite like relaxing in a hot bath when you're feeling under the weather. But is a hot bath really the best way to recover from a cold? Or are there other, more effective methods?
Generally, soaking in a hot bath is a great way to fight a cold and alleviate your symptoms. Since your body fights viruses and diseases with heat, the warmth of a bath can significantly boost your immune system. However, staying hydrated is crucial to avoid inadvertently worsening your symptoms.
Everyone knows how soothing it feels to step into a hot bath when you have a cold. And as it turns out, that's because taking one can help your body recover from illness. Although, you may be surprised at how many other benefits a warm soak can provide.
How is a hot bath good for a cold?
Hot baths provide several benefits that can help you fight a cold. After all, there's a reason why they've been a home remedy for sore throats and stuffy noses for hundreds of years.
Here are some ways a hot bath is good for you when you're sick:
- Immune response: Your body uses heat to attack viruses. It's the reason why you get a fever when you're ill. So by soaking in a hot bath, you're also boosting your immune system's response.
- Congestion: Taking a steamy bath is an excellent idea if you have a stuffy nose. The warm vapors relax your nasal muscles and blood vessels, making breathing easier.
- Body aches: Sneezing and coughing from a cold might leave your body sore and achy. Thankfully, taking a hot soak can soothe that pain and reduce discomfort.
- Sore throat: Ever noticed how sipping hot tea makes you feel better when you have a cold? Similarly, breathing in warm steam from a bath can help soothe a sore throat.
Risks of taking hot baths while sick
Generally speaking, a hot bath will not pose any severe health risks even when you're sick. The only thing you really need to be careful about is dehydration.
The reason is that you can get dehydrated very quickly in a hot bath. You may not realize it since you're already wet, but the heat might cause you to sweat profusely. Not to mention having a cold means you're likely low on fluids anyway.
Here are some signs that you're getting dehydrated while you soak:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Headache and migraines
To prevent these problems, bring something to sip on while you soak in the tub or spa. Water is the healthiest option. Also, try to avoid alcohol since it can dehydrate you further.
Other ways to soothe a cold
Sometimes, a hot bath alone might not be enough to alleviate your cold symptoms. But thankfully, there are ways to make your soak a little more therapeutic.
Here are some other ways to soothe your cold in the tub:
- Essential oils: Adding essential oils to your bath can do wonders for fighting congestion. Peppermint or eucalyptus oils tend to work best. And generally, only 7 or 8 drops are needed to create a noticeable effect.
- Keep it steamy: The main reason hot baths are beneficial for you is the steam. So the next time you have a soak, turn the fan off and keep the door closed. Doing so will help build up more of it.
- Epsom salts: Another excellent way to make your hot bath more soothing is with Epsom salts. Many find that soaking in them relieves muscle aches caused by coughing and sneezing.
- Cough suppressant: Applying a cough suppressant (such as Vicks) on your skin before soaking can further alleviate symptoms.
- Hot tea: Try brewing some hot tea to enjoy while you soak. The extra steam from it will help with decongestion. Not to mention sipping it will moisturize and soothe a sore throat.
Are hot tubs good for a cold?
Believe it or not, hot tubs can be just as good for treating colds as a warm bath. However, there are a couple of caveats you should keep in mind.
First of all, diseases can spread between bathers if they're in close contact. And while the chemicals in your spa will kill most germs, some may survive along the rim or on handles, or simply through the air. So if you're taking a dip in the hot tub to cure a cold, make sure you do so alone.
Furthermore, it's easy for you to get dehydrated while soaking in a hot tub—especially if it's hot out and you're already sweating. As a result, ensure you stay hydrated while in the tub. Otherwise, you may end up making yourself feel worse.
Finally, your spa's water must be properly sanitized to prevent exposure to harmful bacteria. This is always important, but especially so if you're sick. After all, your immune system is weakened and vulnerable while fighting a cold.
Can cold baths soothe a cold?
While soaking in a hot bath can alleviate some symptoms, soaking in frigid water is not a good idea—and could even make your cold worse.
But why is that the case? In simple terms, the heat from a hot bath supercharges your immune system's ability to fight a cold. Meanwhile, a cold soak will reduce how well you can fend off disease in the short term.
Your body needs heat to fend off viruses. So it will have to spend more energy to produce that heat when you're cold.
A byproduct of this is that you may get a more intense-feeling fever. Or your symptoms may even persist for longer than they otherwise would.
However, it's worth noting that cold water isn't always bad for you. When you're not sick, taking cool showers and soaks can even boost your immune system in the long term. Plus, there's less risk of dehydration since you won't sweat.