The Common Cold: What Remedies are Best?
So you've caught a cold. We have good news and bad news. The bad news is there is no cure for the common cold. The good news is there are remedies to make your cold more bearable. But what remedies are the most effective? Which will make you feel better a little quicker? Read below to find out.
Cold remedies have been around for ages. We're sure you were treated for a cold by your mother with a little chicken soup and a lot of TLC. Using chicken soup as a cure for congestion goes back generation after generation.
Just because a remedy goes back a long time does that mean it is guaranteed to work? Are there really any cold remedies that are effective in making you feel better? Here are a few that we have found and a little information on their ability to fight the common cold.
If you're unfortunate enough to catch a cold, our sympathies go out to you. Expect to be sick for up to two weeks. However, that doesn't mean you are relegated to a few weeks of misery.
These cold remedies may help relieve a little of your pain and suffering:
Humidity: Cold viruses love dry conditions which is one more reason why colds are more predominant in the winter months. Dry air also dries out the mucous membranes which causes a scratchy throat and stuffy nose. A humidifier adds moisture to the air which relieves those cold symptoms. A humidifier will moisten your nasal passages and diminish some of the mucous in your sinuses. This will make it easier for you to breathe and better allows the mucous to clear out. Humidifiers come in 5 different types. Are you confused by different types of humidifiers available? We review the pluses and minuses here.
Hydration: You cannot flush a cold out of your body, but if you drink plenty of liquids it can help provide some relief. Drinking water, juice, broth or warm water with lemon and honey will help loosen congestion and will prevent you from getting dehydrated. You'll want to avoid coffee, alcohol and soda that has caffeine in it. They will only make dehydration worse.
Saltwater: Gargling with saltwater can temporarily relieve your scratchy sore throat. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons in a glass of warm water.
Chicken Soup: Parents have fed their sick children chicken soup since time began. But does it work? Scientists have tested this remedy and have discovered that it does show results in relieving cold and flu symptoms. It does this in two ways. First, it operates as an anti-inflammatory. It does this by suppressing the progression of neutrophils. Neutrophils are immune system cells that take part in the body's first response to an infection. Secondly, it speeds up the movement of mucus which helps relieve congestion and that action limits the amount of time viruses are in contact with the lining of the nose.
Saline Sprays and Nasal Drops: Over-the-counter saline sprays and nasal drops help fight congestion and stuffy noses. For babies, it is recommended that you put several saline drops into one nostril and then delicately suctioning the nostril with a bulb syringe. You only want to insert the bulb syringe in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. You can also use saline nasal sprays for older children.
Saline sprays and drops are better to use than nasal decongestants because they don't lead to a worsening of symptoms when you stop using them. Additionally they are safe and do not irritate the nasal cavity, even for children.
Over-the-counter Cold and Cough Medicine: Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some relief form the symptoms of the common cold but they do not shorten how long it lasts or prevent it. Additionally most have some side effects and can make symptoms worse if you use them for more than a few days.
These medications are dangerous to use for children younger than 2. Also, the FDA is looking in to the safety of using over-the-counter cold and cough medications in older children.
If you weren't already aware of it, acetaminophen, like Tylenol and others, can cause liver damage or liver failure if not taken in recommended doses. It's typical for people to take Tylenol in tandem with flu medications that also include acetaminophen as one of their ingredients. This can lead to an overdose of acetaminophen. Remember to always read the labels of any cold medication carefully to make sure you are not in danger of overdosing.
If your cough lasts after your other cold symptoms have gone away, see a physician. In the meantime, you can try calming your sore throat using warm water with lemon and honey and humidifying the air in your house. You should always avoid giving honey to infants because it can lead to botulism.
Antihistamines: First-generation (sedating) antihistamines may provide minor relief of several cold symptoms, including cough, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal discharge. However, results are conflicting and the benefits may not outweigh the side effects.
Colds can make you feel miserable. It's appealing to try the latest and greatest cure-all, but what the most important thing you can do is simply take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids and keep the air moist with a humidifier. One more thing... please wash your hands frequently. We do not want to catch your cold.