We all have had a cold or two, and we all know  how miserable it can make us feel.  Nothing can cure a common cold, but there are some remedies that can help ease your symptoms. 

Cold remedies that work

  • Stay hydrated

Water, warm broth or warm lemon water with honey prevents dehydration, which can exacerbate the symptoms. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated drinks, which can make dehydration worse.

  • Soothe a sore throat.

A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt is a good choice), dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.  Ice chips, sore throat sprays, or  lozenges may help as well.

  • Rinse your nose.

Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion.

  • Add moisture to the air. 

A cool – mist humidifier can add moisture, which might help with congestion symptoms. Change the water daily, and clean the unit regularly with soap and water to kill any bacteria.

  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications.

For adults and children older than 6, OTC decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers might offer some symptom relief. However, they won’t prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects.  Take medications only as directed and ask your pharmacist for assistance.

Cold remedies that don’t work

  • Antibiotics.

These attack bacteria, but they’re no help against cold viruses.  You won’t get well any faster, and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the serious and growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Scientific jury is still out on these cold remedies

  • Vitamin C.

For the most part, vitamin C won’t help the prevent colds. However, taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms.

Study results on whether echinacea prevents or shortens colds are mixed. Some studies show no benefit. Others show some reduction in the severity and duration of cold symptoms.  The caution is that it can interact with many drugs, so check with your pharmacist or your doctor.

There’s been a lot of talk about taking zinc for colds ever since a 1984 study showed that zinc supplements kept people from getting as sick. Since then, research has turned up mixed results about zinc and colds.  Zinc also has potentially harmful side effects if taken in large dozes. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before considering the use of zinc to prevent or reduce the length of colds.

Although usually minor, colds can make you feel miserable. Tthe best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Rest, drink fluids and keep the air around you moist. Remember to wash your hands frequently.