Natural products and the common coldWhile colds are generally not serious, they can disrupt your quality of life enough to make you seek out a way to prevent or treat them as quickly as possible. And while there is unfortunately no miracle cure for the common cold, there are a number of natural products that can provide some measure of relief.
Honey: an effective cough suppressantSeveral studies have shown that honey helps relieve coughing, making it easier to sleep, especially among children. However, be advised that honey should not be given to infants under the age of one because of the risk of botulism.
Vitamin C: for reducing (not preventing) symptoms to a small degree
According to some studies, vitamin C is ineffective for preventing colds. However, it may help reduce somewhat the duration and severity of symptoms, especially when taken before the onset of the infection (200mg/day). Avoid taking megadoses, which are no more effective than the recommended dose, and can cause side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Most Canadians’ diet is typically rich in vitamin C.
Zinc: a modest effect when taken at the right time
Zinc lozenges appear to slightly reduce the duration of the common cold (by about one day) provided you begin taking them as soon as the first symptoms appear. However, they can sometimes cause sore throat, nausea, and intestinal problems, especially in children.
Zinc lozenges shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks, as they can cause a deficiency of copper, an element that is essential to good health. Zinc can also interact with certain medicines.
Options to be avoided
Most experts do not recommend echinacea, as the risk of adverse side effects (allergies, rash) generally outweighs the very modest improvement of symptoms, especially among children and people with compromised immune systems (due to an illness or medical treatment).
Homeopathic remedies are often popular among parents because there is generally no risk associated to them, but they are not effective for preventing or treating cold symptoms in children.
The best remedy is prevention!
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce the risk of catching a cold:
- Wash hands regularly with plain old soap and water.
- Regularly wash surfaces likely to be contaminated (door handles, toys, etc.)
- Eat healthy, stay active, and get enough sleep
Before using a natural health product, consult your pharmacist, especially if it is for a child, someone who is ill or in frail health, or an individual who is taking medication.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.