Treating The Common Cold

For the last week I have had a cold. I usually get one each winter. I have two kids in school and they bring home a lot of viruses. I also work in a hospital, which tends (for some reason) to have lots of sick people. Although this year I think I caught my cold while traveling.  I’m almost over it now, but it’s certainly a miserable interlude to my normal routine.

One thing we can say for certain about the common cold – it’s common. It is therefore no surprise that there are lots of cold remedies, folk remedies, pharmaceuticals, and “alternative” treatments. Finding a “cure for the common cold” has also become a journalistic cliche – reporters will jump on any chance to claim that some new research may one day lead to a cure for the common cold. Just about any research into viruses, no matter how basic or preliminary, seems to get tagged with this headline.  (It’s right up there with every fossil being a “missing link.”)

But despite the commonality of the cold, the overall success of modern medicine, and the many attempts to treat or prevent the cold – there are very few treatments that are actually of any benefit. The only certain treatment is tincture of time. Most colds will get better on their own in about a week. This also creates the impression that any treatment works – no matter what you do, your symptoms are likely to improve. It is also very common to get a mild cold that lasts just a day or so. Many people my feel a cold “coming on” but then it never manifests. This is likely because there was already some partial immunity, so the infection was wiped out quickly by the immune system. But this can also create the impression that whatever treatment was taken at the onset of symptoms worked really well, and even prevented the cold altogether.

What Works

There is a short list of treatments that do seem to have some benefit. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can reduce many of the symptoms of a cold – sore throat, inflamed mucosa, aches, and fever. Acetaminophen may help with the pain and fever, but it is not anti-inflammatory and so will not work as well. NSAIDs basically take the edge off, and may make it easier to sleep.

Decongestants may also be of mild benefit. Antihistamines have a mild benefit in adults, but not documented in children. There are also concerns about safety and side effect in children. Overall, other than some TLC and NSAIDS (although not aspirin) parents should probably not give their children anything for a cough or cold. The benefit of antihistamines in adults is very mild and of questionable value. There is better evidence for antihistamines in combination with a decongestant, but the benefits are still mild. Nasal sprays are probably better than oral medication, and overall use a much lower dose. These treatments do not seem to have any effect on the course of the cold, but may relieve symptoms. Perhaps the best use of nasal spray decongestants is just prior to going to sleep, to reduce a post nasal-drip cough that can be very disruptive to sleep.

There is weak evidence for the use of hot liquids. There does not seem to be any advantage to chicken soup over other hot liquids, like tea. They may provide a symptomatic benefit in clearing the sinuses and loosening phlegm so that it can be cleared easier. Since this is a low risk intervention (just make sure the liquids are not too hot for small children), if it makes you feel better, go for it. There also may not be any advantage over just humidified air to help keep the membranes moist. Honey may be soothing, but there is no evidence of real benefit.

A neti pot looks like a small teapot with a thin spout that is meant to pour hot liquids up your nose to irrigate your sinuses. The evidence for the use of neti pots is mixed. Briefly – there is no evidence for their routine or preventive use, and in fact they may be counterproductive. However, they may be useful for acute symptoms of sinus congestion. The concept is actually simple and well established – irrigating an infected space to help wash out the germs and prevent impaction. There is probably no benefit to using a neti pot for a regular cold – unless you have significant sinusitis and feel that your sinuses are clogged. And again, this is probably no better than just moist air or hot liquids.

What Does Not Work

In short – everything else.

Over the counter (OTC) cough suppressants simply do not work and are not safe in children. If you have a serious cough, the kind that can cause injury, you need prescription medication (basically narcotics, like codeine). Also, in most cases using a cough suppressant makes no sense, especially in combination with an expectorant. You want to cough up the mucus and phlegm. If your cough is caused by a sore throat, take an NSAID. If it’s post nasal drip, treat the congestion as above. And if it’s severe, see your doctor. But don’t bother with OTC cough suppressants.

I have covered echinacea previously in detail – it does not work for the prevention or treatment of the cold or flu.

Vitamin C has been a favorite since Linus Pauling promoted in decades ago. But decades of research has not been kind to this claim. The research has failed to find a consistent and convincing effect for vitamin C in treating or preventing the common cold. For routine prevention, the evidence is dead negative. For treating an acute infection, there is mixed evidence for a possible very mild benefit, but this is likely just noise in the research.

What about homeopathic treatments? Since homeopathy is one big pseudoscientific scam, its products are nothing but water, and they don’t work for anything – I don’t need to go into more detail here.

Finally, there is some evidence that zinc or zinc oxide may reduce symptoms of a cold, but this evidence is mixed and unconvincing at present. At best the benefit is very mild (again, likely within the noise of such studies). Further, zinc comes with a nasty taste (something that also complicates blinding of studies) and many people may find this worse than symptoms it treats. Zinc oxide nasal sprays have been linked to anosmia (loss of smell, which can be permanent) and is certainly not worth the risk to treat a self-limited condition like the cold – even if they did work, which is unclear.


The common cold remains a difficult syndrome to treat effectively. In most cases it is best to just let the cold run its course. Limited use of NSAIDs and decongestants may be helpful. Otherwise, if there is an intervention that is risk free and makes you feel better, do it. We all need to feel comforted when we’re sick. But don’t waste your time or money on other medications, supplements, herbs, or other concoctions. There are also endless snake-oil products out there, too many to deal with here. A good default position is simply not to believe any product that claims to prevent or treat the common cold. And don’t be compelled by the anecdotal evidence of your neighbor’s cousin’s boss. Everyone thinks they have the secret to treating the cold, but no one does. It’s all placebo effect and confirmation bias.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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62 thoughts on “Treating The Common Cold

  1. windriven says:

    Hey – we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we cure the common cold….

  2. My son and I had colds two weeks ago, My daughter and husband this week. Generally I prefer the term “creeping crude” over “cold”. First day it’s sore throat, then aches and pains and fatigue + sore throat, then the cough, then the gross nose… The one nice think about a typical cold is that you generally don’t get bored with the same symptoms for the whole week, it provides variety. :)

    One remedy that wasn’t mentioned, that seems to provide temporary relief of a symptoms is gargling with salt water for a sore throat.

    One thing I’d be curious about. Is there any science based method for lowering the risk of complications from the cold such bacterial sinus infections, ear infection or bronchitis?

  3. rork says:

    I’ve seen a tradition of snorting salty water. Probably like your neti pot, it may seem to make some sense, relieves symptoms a bit, probably doesn’t really work better than chicken soup, but gives good placebo effect with its sensation and ritual, and is not bad for gaining confirmation bias. It could be more herby or high-tech to really get the true-believer juices flowing – maybe use sea salt, blue coloring, special containers, and perform foreign-sounding rituals over the stuff. Maybe add extra steps like gargling water with baking soda. Studies should be done!

  4. Angora Rabbit says:

    If I could chime in about the chicken soup, which I found interesting when I researched the topic for my nutritional biochemistry course. There may be some advantage, or at least common sense, for eating chicken soup or bouillon if one is running a fever. To create a 1F rise in body temperature, basal metabolic rate increases 7% (13% for 1C). But because the cytokine response creates a partial insulin resistance, the body turns to protein (muscle) as a preferred fuel. This contributes to the muscle wasting of prolonged fever.

    So the chicken soup is a nice digestible protein source for fueling the fever response and helps spare muscle (mind any protein would do the same). The water in the broth helps replace the increased water losses of fever, and ditto the salts for electrolytes. But no, it’s not viricidal.

    I joke to the students in my best Yiddish accent that “your mother was right.” :)

  5. peicurmudgeon says:

    I learned from “Crocodile Dundee”. There is a scene where Mick dumps boiling water over cocaine and drapes a toywel over the guy’s head. Have there been any studies to verify this? If it didn’t cure your cold, you probably wouldn’t care.

    On a serious note, I raised to sons with asthma. The complications from a bout of the cold could be serious indeed. We treated with bronchodilators and steroids and antibiotics if they developed an infection. No cough suppressants or CAM for them. They are adults, now, and as far as I know they still us the same approach.

    It is for people with asthma or other COPD conditions that CAM needs to be fought.

  6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    I wonder about vitamin C – not its curative or preventive properties, but I’d heard some vague, somewhere-on-the-internet musings that it’s a middling-effective antihistamine. Therefore, it may not have any curative properties, but may act as a form of symptom treatment that gives the perception of being healthier sooner, thus impacting the disease itself. It’s a frustration of mine that I haven’t been able to tease out from the literature the distinction of “I’m feeling better” versus “I no longer have a cold”. Almost certainly it’s been made somewhere, but I’m not reading enough full-text articles to figure it out.

    Angora, is there really that much protein in chicken soup? And isn’t bouillon mostly fat and salt?

  7. I don’t believe neti pots are used to pour hot liquids up the nose. I’ve used a variant — a soft plastic squirt bottle — and never saw any advice to use any water warmer than lukewarm.

  8. Mark Crislip says:

    The moon landing were a hoax, were they not? That is why we can’t cure the cold. My logic is impecable.

  9. Mighty Amoeba says:

    I find neti pots useful when I have a cold (and only when I have a cold) for a few reasons: it keeps my sinuses from getting clogged, which does wonders for my sleep, it keeps the snot from running down my throat, which helps make my throat not sore, and it keeps the snot from running into my lungs to be coughed up later. I still feel like crap with fatigue, but if I do it twice a day I can still function pretty normally.

    The downside is that if the water is too hot, too cold, too salty, or not salty enough, it is highly uncomfortable. Also you look like an idiot doing it, and it’s almost completely ineffective if your sinuses are already too clogged to let the water run through.

    I started doing it before I was a skeptic, and was pleased to find that the evidence pretty well supported my anecdotal findings that it’s great for a cold, and pretty useless otherwise. I mean, you can watch the snot go down the sink; that’s got to be better than having it in your nose, right?

  10. CarolM says:

    I stopped using decongestants, antihistamines and sprays 30 years ago after turning a routine cold into a 3-week misery fest. They actually seemed to prolong all the symptoms, and for several days I felt like I was inside a bubble.

    What confuses me are the events that are not really colds, but sinus reactions to dry blowing air or dehydration of tissues. All it takes is dried out sinuses to set off the whole bloody series of runny nose, post-nasal drip cough, congestion, and sore throat. This is not a real cold, is it? if no virus was involved.

    I am a singer and have noticed how many fellow singers seem to continually be “sick” and on this OTC and that, and come to find out they sleep with the dry heat way up or a fan blowing in their face.

  11. LovleAnjel says:

    WLU – The amount of protein depends partly on how many pieces of chicken you can eat with the broth. A recipe for chicken soup I found on has 28g protein in 1 cup. According to, a cube of boullion has 1 g protein. Plain chicken broth from a can has 5 g protein.

  12. Jeff says:

    The Cochrane Library has just published an updated review which concludes that zinc is an effective treatment for colds.

  13. kida says:

    Is the zink ref out of date?, seems to be a new cochrane out suggesting positive results

  14. Art Tricque says:

    The posting also is a reminder to reduce the rate of transmission. Cough and sneeze into a sleeve. Wash or sanitize one’s hands regularly. When one has a cold, stay away from public places inasmuch as that is possible.

  15. Jeff says:

    I failed to include the link to the Cochrane Review article about zinc:

  16. windriven says:

    @ Dr. Crislip

    “My logic is impecable.”

    And deftly speled!

  17. Art Tricque says:

    Re the Cochrane review of zinc. According to the news article link “15 trials, involving 1,360 people, were included”. Is that a sample size with a tremendous amount of predictive power? The review abstract is at

  18. James says:

    I could of course tell that Echinacea (Echinaforce,Vogel) works, because it appears to have shortened our days of misery in the past considerably; that Vitamin C works because I think Pauling was right and because it has helped us to fight colds and flu’s, however I haven’t had a cold, nor a flu or anything like it for over three years now. Neither has my beloved, who always (always) would get at least one, but usually two colds in a winter.
    It probably has nothing to do with it, but this fact seems to coincide with the fact that it was about three years ago that we discovered that there appears to be more to Vitamin D (a hormone really) than the medical world was/is ready to admit. Since Vitamin D is cheap and since it doesn’t appear to be a cause for concern with toxicity, (Dr. Cannell,Vitamin D Council) we decided we might as well give it a try. We have in the meantime shared this fact with all our friends and relatives and are happy to tell you that cases of flu and colds are few and far in between. Probably irrelevant to tell you that nobody in our circle of friends takes flu shots.
    The fact that we also started on a much lower carb diet at the same time and take in a bit more MCT’s (coconut oil) is probably not directly related.
    How much Vitamin D? All through the winter season 4000IU.

  19. jude2004 says:

    Roughly 35 years ago, as a college freshperson, my roommate and I contracted colds at the same time. She treated hers aggressively; I did nothing for mine. Mine ended 2 days before hers. Since then, I’ve continued to do nothing to treat colds (and most other minor maladies as well). I haven’t even had a cold in a couple of years, though–an advantage, perhaps, of aging and of living in the same location for decades.

  20. chrisjeans says:

    You say “Over the counter (OTC) cough suppressants simply do not work”, which is quite a strong statement to make with no references. I’ve looked over a Cochrane review from 2008 which concludes there is no good evidence for or against their use. Anyone know of another good source for info on this?

    Also, I have been guilty of buying an OTC with a cough suppressant AND and expectorant. In my defense, I felt absolutely awful at the time and was able to rationalize it to myself somehow. But it’s a pretty dumb concept when you think about it.

  21. Joe says:

    @Jeff on 16 Feb 2011 at 12:01 pm
    Your link ( ) shows “related links” and the top one when I looked was a 2007 review which concluded there was little evidence to support use of zinc lozenges.

    I think we are seeing conflicting opinions on zinc, nothing definitive.

  22. windriven says:

    @Jeff et al

    Here is a direct link to the entire study:

    The forest plots tell the whole story … and it isn’t much of a story.

    Further, the two Prasad studies which showed the most positive results were tiny studies with less than 50 participants each. At what numerical point does a study disintegrate into a handful of anecodotes?

  23. Calli Arcale says:

    My preferred remedy for a cold bad enough to make me stay home from work is:

    * hot tea
    * chocolate
    * all-day Doctor Who marathon (sometimes alternated with Highlander: the Series or Babylon 5)


  24. on Calli’s referred remedy for a bad cold.

    For me it’s boxed chicken soup (the kind with the broth bead) and Doc Martin or Primeval. For flu symptoms, it’s Tylenol, frozen Gatorade and the Illusionist till I fall asleep.

  25. Joe says:

    @windriven on 16 Feb 2011 at 2:43 pm

    For me, your link is a dead-end. But you raise one of the points I did indirectly, if one reads my link they found most studies were not reliable.

  26. rmgw says:

    “There does not seem to be any advantage to chicken soup over other hot liquids, like tea”. Making one’s choice tea, of course, has an advantage for chickens…..

  27. windriven says:


    I’m surprised the link doesn’t work for you. I’ve just tried it again with Firefox and it opens a PDF of the Cochrane report.

  28. windriven says:

    @michele et al re home remedies

    Single malt scotch. Neat. Three fingers. You could add a dash of chicken soup to it if you feel strongly about it.

  29. Kausik Datta says:


    all-day Doctor Who marathon

    Hurray! That’s pretty much my remedy whether or not I have a cold.


    At what numerical point does a study disintegrate into a handful of anecodotes?

    Great question. In addition, I have a difficulty in prima facie accepting a meta-analysis when in Table 1, the authors mention that the quality of evidence of the placebo-controlled trial studies was at best moderate-to-very low. And even in those studies, for a symptom that ranges from 5-8 days, Zinc intervention reduced it by less than 1 day. How significant is it in clinical (not statistical) terms, and how much of it is merely phenomenology?

  30. pmoran says:

    Colds are a nuisance but we should be thankful for them in one way. Along with influenza and certain enteric and venereal infections they demonstrate that despite better hygiene, nutrition and living conditions generally, we are as susceptible as we ever were to infectious illnesses.

    The only epidemic infections to ever be eliminated, or nearly so, are those for which there are effective vaccinations! It is astonishing that some cannot see this.

    Influenza is, of course, a special case, because of its ability to constantly change its antigenic makeup, making it more difficult to get a good vaccine match for the yearly epidemics.

  31. Chris says:

    My cold routine differs a bit from Calli Arcale and micheleinmichigan:

    hot and sour soup from the Chinese restaurant down the street

    hot tea with lemon and honey

    DVD video marathon, often the 7 hour long “10th Kingdom” marathon, something I have not had a chance to watch

    I will take Benadryl to help calm cough and sleep at night only.

  32. Joe says:

    @windriven on 16 Feb 2011 at 5:51 pm wrote “@Joe

    I’m surprised the link doesn’t work for you. I’ve just tried it again with Firefox and it opens a PDF of the Cochrane report.

    The last I knew- if you are in the UK (or Wyoming, USA, or various other places) Cochrane is freely available. Otherwise it is behind a paywall. I could get it through my local university account (as I recall); but doing so was a bit cumbersome.

    The bottom line is that I suspect the Cochrane report gave credit to more reports than it should have, and I think you noted the same.

    Richard Feynman made the point that if one is going to make a particular assertion, it is necessary to consult the original literature, not reviews. It has happened to me that a review including my work made little sense (of my article). I work in a hybrid field (organic chemistry/enzymology) and the organic chemist described my work without understanding my enzyme studies.

    I used to rely on reviews, now I see them as collections of citations to original research.

  33. hippiehunter says:

    I find that eating the hottest curry you can tolerate (it must make you sweat) helps clear out the sinuses and smothering a naturopath with an all natural hypoallergenic pillow with magnets helps with the rest of the symptoms.

  34. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Here are a few links.

    At least for kids, cough meds really do not help.

    Zinc does not help with otitis media.

    Despite today’s Cochran Review, previous reviews did not show an effect of zinc.

  35. windriven says:


    “it is necessary to consult the original literature, not reviews.”

    Amen. Cochrane might be expected to do some of the heavy lifting here – sort of Cliff’s Notes for the medical litrachah. But Cochrane seems to find value in the valueless and furthermore hedges all of its pronouncements with the assertion that more research is needed. Given the autopsy of Lincoln I’m sure they’d concede that the documents suggest that he is probably dead but that additional research is required to state it definitively.

  36. windriven says:


    “and smothering a naturopath with an all natural hypoallergenic pillow with magnets helps with the rest of the symptoms.”

    I was drinking a very nice barolo when I read this. Sort of made my neti pot superfluous. :-)

  37. windriven says:

    @Kausik Datta

    “How significant is it in clinical (not statistical) terms…”

    Indeed. Another thing that I found disturbing was that anosmia was never mentioned as a side effect in studies used by Cochrane. Yet it is the most commonly talked about negative consequence of using zinc. Perhaps all of the studies antedated the link between zinc and olfaction.

  38. weing says:

    “The 10th Kingdom” is my favorite movie. I prefer the old time treatment for the flu I read about in Goodman and Gilman. I believe it would work for the common cold too. You hang up a hat on a wall and drink whiskey until you see two hats. When you get up again the illness is over and you haven’t infected others by walking around.

  39. thelastuser says:

    I like how even our presumably stat-savvy crowd here recalls “that one time” they had a cold and how it decided the way they respond to every cold after that. ;P

  40. Draal says:

    Primeval is any good? It looks so cheesy. and I’ve been watching Doc Martin myself until the next season of Doctor Who or Dexter is released on video. Check out The IT Crowd for some ridiculously good comedy.

  41. Skeptosaurus says:

    I saw a product on our pharmacy shelf yesterday which contains Wellmune WPG(TM). It claims to boost your immune system.
    Apparently, it “can activate your body’s natural defences, helping to reduce the severity and duration of colds so that you feel better sooner.”
    I looked into a phase II clinical trial and the results were less than impressive. With 40 odd participants its statistical power is left wanting and it achieved a statistically significant result (reduction of fever) in 1 out of 14 symptoms of Symptomatic Respiratory Infections compared to the placebo group.
    There was no decrease in incidence of SRIs overall.
    The results also suggested less days spent away from school or work.
    Would be interesting to see more extensive studies on this product though I’m not holding much hope it will be fruitful to the point of being clinically relevant.

  42. aaronupnorth says:

    A timely article!
    You might be interested in a recent article in Canadian Family Physician: Complementary and alternative medicine for prevention and treatment of the common cold
    Can Fam Physician 2011 57: 31 -36.

    This is an article from the official journal of the body that controls primary care medicine in Canada. This article recommends Vitamin C, ginseng, allicin, echinecea, and zinc for the common cold. The recommendation is made under the guise of evidence based medicine. The recommendations are based on the existence of articles that suggest benefit with no real effort made to assess the quality of these articles.

    This is part of an ongoing slide by the canadian college of family practice into CAM/WOO all under the guise of partnership between doctor and patient. It is appalling, and I am at times ashamed to be a member of this group, though forced to in order to maintain my medical licensure.

  43. draal “Primeval is any good? It looks so cheesy. ”

    I’m sort of a sucker for cheesy creature flicks. If you liked Tremors, you might like Primeval.

    Windriven – I will keep my chicken soup and scotch separate, thank-you.

    Regarding curries, hot and sour soup or any other manner of viral solace (such as nabeyaki udon, another good comfort soup), I would suggest that my packaged chicken soup is superior because I can keep it in the pantry and so am not required to venture out in the 10 degree F (-10 with windshield) weather.

  44. tmac57 says:

    The thing that makes me feel almost instantly better is a 1/2 hour soak in my hot tub.I always keep homemade chicken soup in my freezer during the colder months,and that along with Premium Saltines with Smucker’s Natural Chunky style peanut butter (see what I did there ;) ) and a Dr. Katz Profession Therapist marathon can do wonders. Oh, you do have to heat up the frozen soup for the best effect,of course.
    Hippiehunter-Your naturopath comment was at once disturbing,and surprisingly compelling.

  45. Jeff says:


    Cochrane reviewed only those zinc studies using syrup, tablets, and lozenges (no nasal sprays, the only form associated with anosmia). The lead researcher noted that some of those taking zinc lozenges did experience side-effects, like bad taste, or nausea.


    There is epidemiological evidence linking low serum levels of vitamin D with more frequent RTIs. Still waiting for the clinical trials.

  46. James says:

    It is my experience that most people don’t really, subconsciously want to prevent a cold. It gives them a reasonable excuse not to come to work for a day or two. However if your boss catches on and discovers the Vitamin D Council website, your cold sick days will be numbered.
    Most of our aches, pains and ills are nutrition related, whether that be heart, arteries, arthritis, diabetes type 2, etc.
    so “let food be thine medicine.”
    Anybody ever wondered where the cold viruses are in the summer? Hiding in the fridge?

  47. Angora Rabbit says:

    That is my favorite remedy as well. Thanks for the reference. I have found Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Talisker to be equally efficacious in that treatment modality. Science-based research is very important. :)

    And Dr. Who.

  48. James “It gives them a reasonable excuse not to come to work for a day or two. ”

    Hmm, not me, I work for myself…making it hard to fool my boss*. Also my asthma is sometimes triggered by viral infections. Total bummer, that. That’s why I get a flu shot. If there were good reliable prevention for cold, that was less trouble than the actual cold, I’d partake.

    Also James”Anybody ever wondered where the cold viruses are in the summer? Hiding in the fridge?”

    One explanation I’ve heard, cold air, dry air and heating systems tend to dry out our protective mucous. This can cause cracking inside the nose, making us more venerable to viruses. But, I have gotten summer colds before. I hate that.

    *I might also remark that my boss doesn’t pay worth sh*#, but she might hear me.

  49. Gosh, I really looks like I’m missing out by not watching Dr. Who, Must find Netflix download.

  50. Enkidu says:

    For colds, the only thing I actively do for “treatment” is NyQuil at bedtime. It lets me breathe long enough to fall asleep. :)

    As for what marathon would I watch, I’m an anime junkie, so probably Fullmetal Alchemist or a good Naruto story arc. That or Battlestar Galactica (I have both the original and re-imagined series on DVD).

  51. Chris says:


    I would suggest that my packaged chicken soup is superior because I can keep it in the pantry and so am not required to venture out in the 10 degree F (-10 with windshield) weather.

    True. I have some packaged soups that I use in the mean time. I favor the ramen soups, the rest of the family likes the dry soup with short noodles. The hot and sour soup is a nice treat, and the restaurant is only a block away (some days we can smell wonderful things from there and need to get something!).

    Today we are expecting snow, it is also when I am going to be digging the beef bones out of the freezer and putting them in a pot with veggies and herbs for beet broth. And then French onion soup for daughter, plus pot roast for dinner.

    I seem to have caught most of the two to three hundred separate viruses that cause colds in my more than half century of life. Combined with getting influenza vaccines for the last few years, I have not had a serious cold like illness in a couple of years.

  52. Pieter B says:


    10 degree F (-10 with windshield)

    A pity that most readers of wouldn’t get that, isn’t it?

  53. @ Pieter B –

    Damn, I’m embarrassed, Wind chill, not windshield! and I can’t even blame it on my spell check.

    It must be genetic, my Grandmother used to talk about how glad she was that she didn’t have to get that “Cremotherapy”.

  54. Artour says:

    One of key factors that favors spread of infections in household members is mouth breathing. Nose breathing results in trapping of air born objects, germs included with mucus, which is discharged into the stomach to make viruses and bacteria either dead or weak. Later, along the digestive conveyor, some of these pathogens (dead or weak) can penetrate from the small intestine into the bloodstream (due to the the intestinal permeability effect).

    Since these pathogens are either dead or weakened, they could not do much harm (no infection). Moreover, they can provide a lesson for the immune system. This is exactly how immunization works. Therefore, nasal breathing creates conditions for natural autoimmunization.

    Practically, when a household member is sick (with flu or cold), the still healthy people could breathe either through their noses, while teaching the own immune system how to deal with the pathogenic bacteria or viruses, or through their mouths, allowing these pathogens to access, settle and reproduce themselves in various parts of the body causing the infection.

  55. weing says:


    What if you trim your nose hairs? Are you more likely to get infected than if you don’t?

  56. Geekoid says:

    @Mark – Your logic is transparent.

    What about using something that doesn’t work on kids so they can think they feel better and fall asleep?

  57. James says:

    My beloved used to get asthma like attacks in summer when the pollen (espec. giant amaranth)would be around. Would go through a fair bit of antihistamines. Not anymore. Whatever else anybody else believes or thinks works, I think there must be a reason why we usually start seeing more colds and flu’s some 3-6 weeks after the sun goes south. We believe in the Holy Trinity : Calcium:Magnesium:VitaminD.
    And of course viruses love sugars, all sugars. So cutting down on the carbs (saccharides) and sugary drinks helps too.
    For all those who believe in wholesome oatmeal in the morning you definitely will want to keep an eye on your magnesium levels. Oats are high in Phytic acid which locks up magnesium.

  58. James says:

    But of course the magnesium deficient ones can also load up on dark chocolate. Acute monthly cravings for chocolate amongst pre-menstrual women may be partly explained by its rich magnesium content. Magnesium deficiency exacerbates PMT.

  59. SarahAnn says:

    Admittedly the controlled trials aren’t there yet (there was one but it was too short), I have found that supplementing vitamin D has completely eliminated colds from my life, I supplement 2,000IU a day. But a 25(OH)D blood test is always warranted to ensure correct dosage. Total anecdote I know, but every single person who tries this reports the same thing. Await the results of trials with interest.

    Also, Pelargonium sidoides, a herbal remedy has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.

  60. Narad says:

    Total anecdote I know, but every single person who tries this reports the same thing.

    Yah, my mother-in-law sends supplements as gifts, and I tried the 2000 IU regimen for several months. No colds! I did, however, have pleuritis and develop an intractable plantar keratosis. (You are no doubt aware of the autoimmune nature of the latter.) I think it turned the control knob on my immune system to 11!

  61. Joe says:

    Anecdotes about vitamin D are not helpful. Neither is the article (abstract) on Pelargonium sidoides which provides suspiciously-good results of a pilot study, published in a minor magazine, that has not been updated and improved in recent years.

  62. SarahAnn says:

    Thanks for that Joe, good to know you’re out there deciding for people what’s helpful and what isn’t. As I said, I await further trials.

    Suspiciously good results perhaps, further investigation will tell.


    Did you get a blood test done? It’s foolhardy to supplement any nutrient (especially D) without testing to see what the correct dosage is. If you have slightly more D to beat severe deficiency but not enough can leave you susceptible to more severe illness than the common cold.

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