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Which Common Cold Remedies Actually Work?


Common cold remedies are certainly not hard to come by. From over-the-counter meds to old wives’ tales, common cold treatments come in many different shapes and forms. But with so many options out there, it’s easy to get confused about which are truly the best treatments for the common cold (a viral infection of your nose and throat). Luckily, new research can help clear up some of the confusion — and, hopefully, your stuffy nose as well.

An October 2018 paper, published in The BMJ, analyzed published evidence on the effectiveness of remedies for the common cold. Researchers found that decongestants can be helpful — but only for adults. The evidence suggested that adults who use decongestants — either alone or with antihistamines or analgesics — may see a small effect on their nasal symptoms. That said, the researchers warned that decongestant treatments should never be given to children under the age of 6, and given with caution in kids under 12.

The researchers explained that there is no evidence that decongestants help these young kids with their pesky symptoms. Even more concerning, the safety of youngsters using these meds is debatable. So if parents are concerned about their kids’ symptoms, researchers say they can safely use saline nasal irrigations or drops as a treatment. But as we all know, we can’t expect anyone’s common cold symptoms — including our own — to go away immediately right after we treat it.

One of the most annoying things about the common cold is how long it lasts. Common cold symptoms — such as a runny nose, sore throat, and cough — can take seven to 10 days to clear completely. We know what you’re thinking: But I have stuff to do! I don’t have time to be sick. We get it; the common cold often strikes at the worst possible time, and it’s inconvenient that a cure for the common cold hasn’t been invented yet. But it’s important to take time out to rest. If you don’t, you might get even more sick, and your symptoms could last much longer than expected. At the end of the day, time is the best healer for the common cold — no matter what age you are.

Luckily, there are a few ways to keep yourself comfortable as you wait to get better. Along with decongestants, you can also use natural remedies to make the whole process a little less painful. The Mayo Clinic suggests drinking lots of fluids, including water, juice, and clear broth. A saltwater gargle of 1/4 tsp. of salt in a 4-ounce glass of warm water might help soothe a scratchy throat. And the tastiest treatment? The common cold is a perfect excuse to indulge in some delicious chicken noodle soup if you haven’t had it in a while. Who says you can’t keep your mouth happy while you get healthy?

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