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Calm your cold: 3 common remedies to soothe seasonal sniffles

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Common cold

While there’s no cure for the common cold, everyone seems to have a surefire remedy they embrace.

These three remedies may reduce symptom duration and severity. But do the simple solutions hold up to science?

According to Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of geriatric medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, there’s some evidence they could work. “As long as you stay within the confines of dosages and don’t overdo it, they may help,” she says.

Zinc lozenges

Some studies suggest zinc slows viral replication in the nose and throat.

Taking zinc lozenges as soon as symptoms appear may benefit some people, Salamon says.

Keep in mind that you should not take too much — the total daily zinc dose for long-term use should not exceed 40 mg, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Evidence about the benefits of zinc lozenges is steeped in contradictions. Some studies say increasing your zinc intake helps lessen cold severity, while others say it has zero effect.

The verdict for now? Zinc lozenges may offer some help. A May 2017 analysis in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Open found that cold durations were 33% shorter, on average, among people who used zinc lozenges daily.

Salamon recommends taking one lozenge at a time, three or four times a day, for up to four days. Many over-the-counter lozenges contain low amounts of zinc, but check the package’s label to make sure you stay within the safe daily amount.

Also, eat something before you take zinc lozenges, as they could make you nauseous. Lozenges work best the longer they can coat the throat, so don’t drink anything for 15 minutes after taking them.


Vitamin C

While it’s not known how vitamin C may fight the cold virus, most experts point to the fact that it is a potent antioxidant as a likely factor.

A March 2017 analysis by the journal Nutrients found that daily doses of more than 1,000 mg had a stronger effect on cold symptoms than a lower amount.

But is more better? The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is only 90 mg for adults. Taking in more than 3,000 mg can cause problems like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.

“Still, it’s not unreasonable to try boosting vitamin C to help fight a cold,” says Salamon.

She suggests to first maintain the required daily intake of vitamin C through food.

You can meet this with ½ cup of raw red bell pepper (95 mg) or ¾ cup of orange juice (93 mg).

Other top vitamin C sources are ½ cup of green pepper (60 mg), ½ cup of cooked broccoli (51 mg) and ½ cup of strawberries (49 mg).

When you feel the onset of cold symptoms, increase your daily vitamin C intake to 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg, Salamon says. “The longer you wait, the less likely the extra dosage will be effective.”

It’s tough to get that extra amount only from foods, so she suggests taking a vitamin C supplement or a couple of multivitamins with sufficient vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on.

Food Healthy Now Eat This Chicken Soup

This Nov. 21, 2011 photo shows Rocco DiSpirito's recipe for chicken noodle soup in Concord, N.H. This soup uses real chicken and fresh vegetables, like carrots and onions, which are a great source of vitamins. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Chicken soup

It’s probably the ultimate cold-fighting cliche, but eating bowls of warm, steaming chicken soup actually can soothe cold-stricken souls.

As with the other remedies, chicken soup may help, and it doesn’t hurt to try. It works in several ways, Salamon says:

  • The steam helps clear up nasal congestion better than drinking hot water or tea.
  • The bone marrow that goes into most chicken stock contains adiponectin, a hormone linked with many health-boosting benefits, especially lowering inflammation.
  • The many vegetables you can include, such as carrots, garlic and onions, are rich in healing antioxidants.

RELATED: 6 herbs that do a better job than a vitamin C megadose


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