Sniffles, sneezes, sore throats and coughs are all too common at this time of year. Adults average between two and four colds a season, while youngsters may suffer between six and 10 infections during the year. Frequently, they pick these up at school or daycare and bring them home to share with the family.
Even though the common cold is exactly that — common — modern medicine still has no cure. While OTC remedies may sometimes ease symptoms temporarily in adults, experts recommend staying away from drugstore cold remedies for kids.
There is no evidence of benefit, but there is the possibility of doing harm (Clinical Pediatrics, June 2013).
Even adults may experience complications from such cold remedies. Pain relievers frequently found in such products (ibuprofen and acetaminophen) actually may dampen the immune response and increase nasal symptoms (Journal of Infectious Diseases, December 1990).
Oral decongestants also are common ingredients in drugstore cold formulas, but they can raise blood pressure, cause prostate symptoms and keep people awake due to their stimulant effects.
How can you reduce your chances of coming down with a cold? The official word is always, “Wash Your Hands!”
While we do not want to pooh-pooh hand hygiene, studies have not shown great effectiveness. In one randomized trial, volunteers applied an alcohol-based hand sanitizer every three hours all day. A control group followed their usual hand-washing routines.
You might think that frequent use of hand sanitizer would keep cold germs away, but the research found no benefit (Clinical Infectious Diseases, May 15, 2012).
Grandmothers worldwide have relied on remedies like chicken soup, garlic, ginger tea or cod liver oil to ward off colds and treat symptoms. There is now science to support such approaches. The vitamin D in cod liver oil probably boosted the immune response to cold viruses.
In a Swedish study of 140 people with immune deficiencies, those taking 4,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 were much less likely to suffer respiratory infections than those taking a placebo (BMJ Open, Dec. 13, 2012).
Children may also benefit from vitamin D. A randomized trial in Japan compared supplements of 1,200 IU per day to placebo in children (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2010).
Those getting vitamin D were half as likely to catch the flu and miss school as those taking the placebo. Kids with asthma were less likely to have an attack if they were in the group taking vitamin D.
Another remedy is garlic, eaten cooked or raw. This might work partly by keeping other people
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