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Respiratory Problems,Age 12 and Older - Home Treatment

Alternative medicines or supplements

Many people use alternative medicines or supplements to prevent colds or to shorten their cold symptoms. Before using any treatment for your cold symptoms, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of the treatment. For more information, see the topic Complementary Medicine. Some of the common alternative medicines or supplements used are:

  • Echinacea. Study results differ about whether echinacea can keep you from getting a cold or can help you get better faster. Echinacea can cause severe allergic reactions in some people with a history of asthma, allergies, hay fever, or eczema.
  • Vitamin C. Long-term daily use of vitamin C in large doses does not appear to keep you from getting a cold or help you get better faster. There may be a slight reduction in the length of time cold symptoms last when high doses are taken. Additional studies must be done to determine how much vitamin C is needed to reduce the length of time cold symptoms are present.
  • Zinc. Using a product containing zinc may help shorten the length of your cold by up to a day.1 But you have to take the zinc as soon as you have any cold symptoms. In some cases, zinc products that you spray or place into your nose can cause permanent loss of the sense of smell.2

If you decide to use an alternative medicine or supplement, follow these precautions:

  • As with all conventional medicines and supplements, it is important to follow the directions on the label.
  • Do not exceed the maximum recommended dose.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking any medicine or supplement.
  • If you have another health problem or take prescription medicines, talk with your doctor before taking an alternative medicine or supplement.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Increasing difficulty breathing develops.
  • Wheezing develops.
  • New chest pain develops.
  • Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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