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Part of the torment of falling sick (or just plain falling) is lying around wondering when you’re even going to feel better. That’s when many people make the mistake of hobbling around before they should, then end up prolonging the agony. Here’s what to expect from some common ailments, and how to speed them along.

Sprained Ankle


Recovery Time: Three to four days for a simple sprain; up to two weeks for a more serious one. Many people lengthen recovery time by walking before the should, says Robert Schiller, MD, chairman of family medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

How To Speed Recovery: Treat a sprain aggressively at the beginning—ice it every hour or so for the first 48 hours; after that apply heat. Wrap it securely (especially around the front of the foot, to stabilize the ankle), stay off it, and elevate it to knee level.

Also Try: The herbal pain reliever arnica montana, available as a topical gel or cream (just make sure the skin isn’t broken).

Cold


Recovery Time: The acute phase usually lasts three to four days, but various symptoms can stick around for up to two weeks, says Marianne Legato, MD, professior of clinical medicine at Columbia University and an internist in private practice in New York City.

How To Speed Recovery: Take vitamin C (1,000-4,000 milligrams a day) at the first sign of a sore throat, Schiller says. Drink lots of fluids and, if you’re a regular exerciser, work out at 50 percent intensity. (Standard over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants will allay symptoms but won’t speed recovery.)

Also Try: Zinc lozenges and echinacea, which may shorten the duration of a cold; slippery elm for coughs; and a vaporizer or humidifer to add moisture to the air and reduce irritation. For a stuffy nose, Grandma’s old remedy: Put eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water, drape a towel over year head, and breathe.

Next: How to recover from the flu, a pulled back, and more...

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