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Home remedies for the common cold: What’s hype, what’s not?

Home remedies for the common cold: What’s hype, what’s not?

Published on February 23, 2018

When a head cold makes you miserable, chances are everybody you know has a remedy they swear by. But what really works?

While nothing can cure a cold—sorry!—some things might help you feel better faster. Here’s the truth behind five common home remedies.

1. Feed a cold, starve a fever

To fight any infection—regardless of its symptoms—you need a steady supply of nutrients. If you don’t have much appetite, try simple, bland foods and mini meals.

2. Drink lots of fluids

That’s good advice, especially if you’re feverish, to help prevent dehydration. It can also help a stuffy nose. But be fussy about what you sip. Steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated sodas, which can dehydrate you more.

3. Eat chicken soup for a cold

Mom was right. Any warm liquid speeds up the passage of mucus through your nose, which can ease congestion. Research also suggests that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve cold symptoms. Plus, since it’s a liquid, it helps you stay hydrated.

4. “Sweat out” your cold

This one’s mostly a myth. It’s OK to be active with a cold as long as your symptoms are mild and confined to your head—for example, if you only have a runny nose or sore throat. But it’s not a cure. And you should keep your workouts moderate—not intense—until you’ve been symptom-free for a few days.

If you have a fever or aches and pains all over your body, then rest is more important than your exercise routine. Hold off until you’re feeling better.

5. Take some vitamin C, zinc or echinacea

Study results are mixed when it comes to supplements. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Vitamin C. While there’s no proof that taking vitamin C will prevent a cold, it has been linked to small improvements in cold symptoms.
  • This herb doesn’t help prevent the common cold, and there’s only limited evidence that it helps treat cold symptoms.
  • Some evidence suggests that zinc lozenges or syrup may slightly reduce a cold’s duration, especially if you take either within a day of when symptoms begin.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you take these or any supplement. Some may interact with other drugs you’re taking or cause harmful side effects.

What about antibiotics?

No matter what you’ve heard, antibiotics don’t help colds. They only work against bacteria—and colds are caused by viruses. Plus, taking antibiotics when you don’t need them may make germs stronger and more dangerous. When a cold strikes, stick to what works.

No flu for you!

We’re in the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in nearly a decade. Find out how to protect yourself.

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