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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Understanding Common Cold -- Treatments

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What Are Treatments for the Common Cold? continued...

Antihistamines seem to help some people, but their effect during colds remains controversial.

Good nutrition is essential for resisting and recovering from a cold. Eat a balanced diet. Take supplements as needed to ensure you are receiving the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A, the vitamin B complex (vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, folic acid), and vitamin C, as well as the minerals zinc and copper. Both vitamin C and zinc are essential for production of infection-fighting neutrophils; without adequate levels, you're an easy mark for all types of infections. Evidence shows zinc may shorten the duration of a cold, especially in adults if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Avoid zinc nasal spray as it may lead to permanent loss of smell.

After much research, vitamin C is believed to have a small effect in preventing colds, and no benefit in treating a cold. There have been several large studies in adults and in children, but the results have been inconclusive. Taking a lot of vitamin C over a long period of time can be harmful.

Chicken soup has been heralded as a cold therapy since the 12th century. Recent scientific evidence shows mild support for the notion that chicken soup reduces cold symptoms, especially congestion.

Asian healing treatments often use hot soups to treat upper respiratory infections, making use of red pepper, lemongrass, and ginger, in particular. Any food spicy enough to make your eyes water will have the same effect on your nose, promoting drainage. If you feel like eating, a hot, spicy soup may help ease your cold symptoms.

To ease cold symptoms, the essential oils of aromatherapy may be rubbed on the body, inhaled with steam, diffused into the air, or poured on a cloth to be used as a compress. Try rubbing diluted eucalyptus oil on the chest as a decongestant, or inhale eucalyptus or peppermint oil to clear stuffiness. Adding lavender, cedar, or lemon to steam may also soothe nasal passages. Inhaling menthol not only provides relief from nasal congestion, but might help inhibit infection as well. Rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, and tea tree oils can also provide relief from symptoms of a cold. Use caution if you have asthma, since aromatherapy can trigger an attack.

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