What Works For The Common Cold?

It’s definitely common cold season (ganmao, in Chinese). So, in this deeply cold week in Beijing, it’s a good time to review what treatments actually work for the common cold.

The New York Times has a nice review today (Patient Money – Tips to Treat a Cold or Flu, With Your Wallet in Mind) of treatments for the common cold. I’ve mentioned a lot of this before, but this is  a nice review for everyone. The unfortunate truth is that people spend a lot of money on over-the-counter medicines which work poorly, if at all. And one other major point, which many people still need to understand, is that antibiotics have no use against the common cold, which is caused by a virus and not a bacteria. Fortunately, there are some easy (and free) ways to fight it off:

So, what does work? While few, if any, medicines can shorten the duration of a cold, some can help reduce the onerous symptoms of upper respiratory infections. Nasal sprays shrink swollen blood vessels and relieve stuffy noses, though the relief is temporary and you should not use spray for more than three days.

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce fevers and body aches. Rinsing your nasal passages with a saline solution or breathing steam can help loosen mucous and increase nasal secretions, which can help to prevent a secondary sinus infection. Humidifiers and hot showers also help. Drinking warm liquids like tea has been shown to reduce a variety of cold and flu symptoms.

And don’t forget chicken soup. The age-old remedy, as you’ve no doubt heard, actually does help to reduce the symptoms of the common cold.


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