Best Ways to Fight a Cold and, from Personal Experience, the Flu, Before it Starts: Dr. Cremers’ 23 Natural Home Remedies To Fight A Cold:

Recently a couple of co-workers came down with laryngitits. The question recently came up of “what is the best way to fight a cold?” We all have this question.

The average adult gets a common cold 2-4 times per year (Ref 3). Most colds are due to a rhinoviruses though, up to 200 other viruses have been implicated.

Symptoms include nasal congestion and discharge, sneezing, cough, sore throat, and fever. While benign, they last for several days and cause 40% of all missed work days. Complications include sinusitis,bronichitis, laryngitis, otitis media and pneumonia, exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and serious illness in immunocompromised patients. 

Few effective treatments have been published. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain symptoms but not the overall duration or severity of a cold, and the antiviral drug oseltamivir,  Tamiflu, only reduces symptom duration by 0.55 days in otherwise healthy adults. Tamiflu can be a life saver in some patients, but it has some risks: see blog post

There is no role for antibiotics in the treatment of the common cold. However, often bacteria take advantage of the fact that the body is fighting a battle with a virus and will begin to replicate in the form of bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia. It is hard to tell is someone has a super-infection with a bacteria without getting cultures, Xrays, or CT scans of the sinuses or lungs. It used to be when I was a medical student that a patient would only be given an antibiotic IF a culture was positive. Now, MDs give antibiotics even when there is no positive culture. This is a risk as well but many MDs feel the benefits outweigh the risks.

While vaccination of healthy adults prevents influenza, it only reduces incidence of acute respiratory infections by 16%, and work absenteeism by 0.13 days according to studies.

Many patients use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies to treat the common cold at about $1 billion per year on alternative treatments. Below are the natural treatments I recommend and use to fight a cold. 

The key, no matter what you try, is to fight the virus as soon as you feel yourself getting sick. Each second lost leads to the multiplication of virus into the billions: and by the time you have time to deal with the cold symptoms, it might be too late. 

These are the steps I have used to help decrease the time I am sick and try to fight the cold or flu completely. 

Dr. Cremers’ 23 Natural Home Remedies To Fight A Cold:

1. Take a Cold Eeze Lozenge asap and follow the direction on the box: avoid citrus foods and Magnesium 30min to 1 hr before and after you take the pill.
In Boston, we used to buy bulk Cold-Eeze it worked so well to keep us all virus free. As I mentioned in a previous post, too much Cold-Eeze can decrease your ability to smell so be careful not to overdo it. 

2.Stay Well Hydrated (drink at least 64oz of water per day and Take a Hot Shower (without Burning your Skin)
As soon as you realize you are getting sick and get home, take a hot shower (as hot as you can without burning yourself). Gargle the hot water in your throat and allow the hot water to massage your shoulders and back as much as possible. Swallowing the hot water may help as well. Do this daily and massage your shoulders aggressively especially if it hurts in certain areas from the virus attacking you. There are some studies showing that stimulating the fascial plane around muscles helps your immune system: this may be the secret to why acupuncture works. 
3.Massage Your Shoulders as Much as You Can or Have Someone Massage Your Shoulders
Frequently your shoulders will be the first part of your body to feel aches. Touching them may even hurt. I massage out these “knots” aggressively or have my husband massage them for me so the pain goes away completely. I continue these massages nightly until I am back to normal after the hot shower.

These are my favorite massage machines for shoulders:

4.Exercise: Increase Your Core Body Temperature to Improve Your Immune System’s Function
Even though this may the last thing you feel like doing, increase your core body temperature by doing some exercise, such as walking up a flight of stairs or walking on a treadmill. Do not do this if you have a fever, feel faint, or have not been cleared by your MD for exercise. If you have a common cold without a fever and all your symptoms are above your neck, such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sniffling and watery eyes, then breaking out in a sweat is considered safe. Epidemiological data suggest that moderate exercise reduces the risk and severity of infections. A study on mice showed: Repeated moderate exercise before infection can positively affect infection outcome. A single session of exercise also confers some benefit, although this appears to be present only in the first days after infection: see reference 1 below.

Slow jogging, walking, biking, even yoga may help when you have a cold. Avoid endurance running or aggressive sports when sick to avoid extra work for your heart and lungs which will react to the virus invading you. I walk on a treadmill and try to get in 10,000 steps on the day I feel I am getting sick.

5.Get Extra Sleep 
As soon as you can after the hot shower and above, get into bed and do not be disturbed. Do not watch tv or the computer or your iphone and sleep as much as you can. Use a humidifier in your room if you cannot sleep because of a stuffy nose. 
If all your symptoms are above your neck, such as sneezing, sniffling and watery eyes, then breaking out in a sweat is generally considered safe. Your immune system functions better when you exercise regularly and is a good preventative measure.

Sleep helps your body fight the infection at the cellular level. When you’re sick (and even when you’re not), most people need at least eight hours of sleep a night and plenty of rest during the day.
6.Alcohol in your nose? Alcohol applied over your eyelids?
This one is controversial and kind of gross, but one of my senior NYEEI residents told me about years ago when viral conjunctivitis had take out a visiting medical resident to NYEEI for months: put alcohol pad on everything that you touch. This resident would put alcohol over his closed eyelids if he felt any itching if there was someone around him who was sick. He would stick alcohol pads into his nose if he felt any tingling and had been exposed to a sick patient or colleague. I do not see any studies on this one and as long as you do not get the alcohol into your eye, it should be ok. Maybe the alcohol kills virus on contact so maybe it is not a bad idea. I have tried this as well, but do not have any randomized, controlled studies to say it decreases the time you are sick: unlike Cold Eeze. I doubt I would be able to enroll patients for such a study.

7.Vitamin D
Vitamin D improves your immune system’s function so increase your Vitamin D intake. My favorite is below. I buy this in bulk and take about 4 pills a day and sometimes more in the winter. It is sugar free.

8.Vitamin C

Albert Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of vitamin C and Linus Pauling, also Nobel laureate, popularized its use for disease prevention and longevity. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties, regenerates glutathione, and might stimulate neutrophil and monocyte activity which help the immune system.
A Cochrane systematic review identified 7 treatment trials evaluating 3294 cold episodes. Only one trial found that patients who took 8 g of vitamin C at the onset of symptoms had more “short colds” of less than a day than those who took 4 g (46% vs 39%, P =.046). All other trials found no benefit, even at similar doses.

There have been about 30 prevention trials involving 11350 patients. Overall, there was a very slight decrease in the number of colds (odds ratio [OR] 0.96, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.92 to 1.0) but not in cold severity. Symptom duration decreased by 8.0% in trials that used more than 1 g daily in adults, and decreased by 18% (95% CI 7% to 30%) when this dose was used in children. Assuming that the average cold lasts for 7 to 10 days, this represents 1.5 to 2.0 days shorter duration, which is clinically relevant.

There have been 6 trials of 642 subjects exposed to severe stress in the form of subarctic cold or intense physical activity. In these trials, those taking vitamin C at doses of 200 to 2000 mg daily had half as many colds as those taking placebo (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.66). 
Vitamin C is considered safe in doses up to several grams per day. The only occasional side effect is gastrointestinal upset, and doses in excess of 10 g can cause diarrhea. No drug interactions are known.
Taking at least 1 g of vitamin C per day can be recommended for the prevention of colds based on good evidence of moderate reduction in symptom duration in adults and children. While it only reduces symptoms by 1 to 2 days, it is cheap, safe, and simple to use. It can also be recommended for use by athletes in intense training. Further research still is needed. Our favorite Vitamin C is noted in the photo above. 

9.Chicken Soup and Bone Broth
While I am doing all of the above, I usually eat a lot of chicken soup or bone broth. I have posted before on my favorite bone broth:

The Science of Chicken Soup

A pediatrician recently told me that to treat colds, chicken soup may be a better choice than over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.
Seems that mom may be right about chicken soup. (Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times)
Now, with government experts questioning the safety and effectiveness of cold medications for kids, the best option for parents this cold and flu season may be home remedies like chicken soup. As it turns out, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really could have medicinal value.
The most widely cited of these studies, published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, is by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, beginning with his wife’s homemade recipe, handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.
The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds but say it may be the combination of vegetables and chicken that work together. The tested soup contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper. The full recipe, as well as the scientific article, are available on the university’s Chicken Soup Web site. The researchers also compared commercial soups and found many of them also had a similar inhibitory effect.
Another study by Mount Sinai researchers in Miami also suggests that chicken soup has more than just a placebo effect. They looked at how chicken soup affected air flow and mucus in the noses of 15 volunteers who drank cold water, hot water or chicken soup. In general, the hot fluids helped increase the movement of nasal mucus, but chicken soup did a better job than the hot water, according to the 1978 report, also published in Chest. Chicken soup also improves the function of protective cilia, the tiny hairlike projections in the nose that prevent contagions from entering the body, according to a 1998 Coping With Allergies and Asthma report.
None of the research is conclusive, and it’s not known whether the changes measured in the laboratory really have a meaningful effect on people with cold symptoms. However, at the very least, chicken soup with vegetables contains lots of healthy nutrients, increases hydration and tastes good, too.
Avoid canned varieties in favor of a home-cooked version and store in the freezer if need for future.  Though I always recommend fresh over frozen.

"After all is said and done, for a 
cold nothing can beat chicken soup. 
Put an experienced chicken in a pot 
with water, onions, carrots, pepper- 
corns and a little salt. Cook ' til it falls 
apart. Strain. Discard fat. Save the 
wishbone to distract a sniffing child. 
Feed the overdone chicken and 
vegetables to a hungry pet. To the 
invalid, offer the broth steaming hot 
with a whole chili plus a halved 
large garlic clove swimming inside 
and thin slices of lemon on top. This 
is the cure for the common cold." — 
Wisconsin psychiatrist, 1994. ❖ 
10Apple Cider Vinegar
I have become a fan of Apple Cider Vinegar. See my last post on ACV’s ability to help you lose weight:
Cold viruses increase the acidity of your body which can help fight viruses. To fight the virus, take a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar each day. 
11Nasal Saline Rinse

Normal saline nasal washes are effective in treating and preventing virus infections and recurrences, the fact is they are effective. Use only sterile normal saline water in the rinse.
Contaminated Tap water can increase the inflammatory response in the sinus passages and carry parasites that can infect your brain if you live in certain areas.

Neti Pots work for sinusitis. I have never done this but have many patients who swear by such rinses. 
 2016 Aug;6(8):800-6. doi: 10.1002/alr.21755. Epub 2016 Mar 17.

Evaluation of bacterial transmission to the paranasal sinuses through sinus irrigation.



Saline nasal irrigation is effective in the treatment of sinonasal disorders, including chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). Despite bacterial contamination in rinse bottles and reports of infections from contaminated irrigation water, tap water is still used by ∼50% of irrigation users, raising a potential public health concern. This study aimed to determine whether bacteria from the water supply used in sinus irrigations colonizes the paranasal sinuses.


Samples were taken from the: (1) water used for irrigation, (2) faucet or container the water originated from, (3) rinse bottle, and (4) postoperative ethmoid cavity from 13 subjects with CRS. Microbiota were characterized using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing. The Morisita-Horn beta-diversity index (M-H) was used to assess similarity in microbiota between samples, and genomic analysis was performed to assess clonality of cultured bacteria.


Of 13 subjects, 6 used distilled water, 6 used tap water, and 1 used well water in this institutional review board (IRB)-approved observational study. Well-water had markedly more bacteria than tap or distilled water. There was a trend toward tap having more bacteria than distilled water. The sinus samples were notably dissimilar to the bottle, faucet, and irrigant (M-H 0.15, 0.09, and 0.18, respectively). There was no difference in postoperative microbiotas between distilled and tap water users.


The current study suggests that irrigation plays little role in establishing the sinus microbiome. Although rinsing with tap water may never be formally recommended, these data are useful to counsel patients who prefer to do so in non-endemic areas if the municipal water supply is appropriately treated.

12Prayer and Meditation:

More and more research is being done to see how prayer and meditation actually decreases heart rates, blood pressure and improves patient’s immune functions. We know it does work. I recommend this daily. Daily mass is awesome!

13Stress Reduction

Whether you pray, meditate, practice breathing exercise, or do yoga, stress reduction decreases risk of diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, and infections. Find a way to decrease the stress in your life daily. 

14Frequent Hand Washing
Frequent hand washing with soap is a deterrent for infection by viruses and against further infection while you are sick and will reduce the spread of the virus to other family members. It will not shorten the length of your cold. Be careful to avoid excessive hand washing to avoid cracking or bleeding skin.
15Eat Low Inflammatory Type Foods
Avoid all processed foods, all foods high in carbohydrates and sugars. See my post on eating a low inflammatory or anti-inflammatory diet:
Ideally eat fresh food and organic as much as possible.
Avoid eating foods that were stored in plastic…even as delicious as that roasted chicken in the grocery looks, sitting on a plastic container for hours could be toxic.

16Coconut Oil
I love coconut oil for the eyelids (just a little to avoid any risk of clogging your glands) as it has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Rub coconut oil over your skin. It is readily absorbed into your body and, as an added benefit, will soften your skin too. A close friend adds one-half teaspoon to his coffee or tea when he has a cold and often eats a whole tablespoon when he is hungry: yuk! But he is super thin & rarely sick.

17Vapor and Steam
Vapor and Steam will not shorten the length of your cold, but it will help to break up the mucous secretions in your sinuses and help you cough out the loads of viruses likely swimming in your mucus secretions and phelgm: this thus reduces the inflammation in your nasal passages and help you to breathe better.

This is my favorite Menthol. It opens nasal passages and helps me breathe better. 

19 Fermented Foods
This has been controversial for me as I have not had time to do enough research on this:

Some consider: Eating fermented foods is a preventive measure for more than just a cold.

20. Baking Soda
The administration of baking soda is simple, relatively harmless and easy to test on your own cold. Simply dissolve the recommended amount of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink it. Recommended dosages from the Arm & Hammer Company for colds and influenza back in 1925 were:
  • Day 1 — Take six doses of one-half teaspoon of baking soda in glass of cool water, at about two-hour intervals
  • Day 2 —Take four doses of one-half teaspoon of baking soda in glass of cool water, at the same intervals
  • Day 3 — Take two doses of one-half teaspoon of baking soda in glass of cool water morning and evening, and thereafter ½ teaspoon in glass of cool water each morning until cold symptoms are gone
This should only be used as an occasional (not chronic) treatment, however, and be careful not to consume excessive amounts, which can cause serious electrolyte and acid/base imbalances.
21Stop Smoking. Decrease Alcohol Intake: 
Smoking and excessive alcohol inhibit your immune system.

22Raw Honey
Avoid giving raw honey to young babies and kids under 1 year old given the risk of Bolutinum bacteria. Boiling destroys the bacterial spores and toxins. Raw honey is a potential source of the Clostridium botulinum spores.  Infant botulism is a rare disease caused by the bacteria, Clostridium botulinum but can be deadly as it leads to paralysis. 

In general: Honey has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. But, you would have to overdose on the honey in order to achieve the effect of treating the virus in your body.
However, if you suffer from a sore throat with your cold, raw honey is as effective as cough syrup or cough drops. Avoid excessive honey as it can increase your risk of diabetes.
Honey Lemon Cough Syrup: A Classic Combination
Lemon helps promote health by quickly alkalinizing your body and likely kills bacteria and viruses as well, and honey will kill any bacteria. This is a perfect choice for a quick cough remedy.
1.Put a pint of raw honey in a pan on the stove on very low heat (Do not boil honey as this changes its medicinal properties).
2.Take a whole lemon and boil in some water in a separate pan for two to three minutes, to both soften the lemon and kill any bacteria that may be on the lemon skin.
3.Let the lemon cool enough to handle, then cut it in slices and add it to the pint of honey on the stove.
4.Let mixture cook on warm heat for about an hour.
5.Then strain the lemon from the honey, making sure all lemon seeds are removed.
6.Let cool, then bottle in a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.
This syrup will keep for two months in the refrigerator. To soothe a cough, take 1/2 teaspoon for a 25-pound child and 1 teaspoon for a 50-pound child, about four times a day, or as often as needed. Adults can take 1 tablespoon doses.

23Hydrogen Peroxide
In 1928, Dr. Richard Simmons hypothesized that the cold virus entered your body through the ear canal and not the nose. His theory was dismissed by the medical community. This is controversial.

I could not find any research to show this is true as of yet. Some people swear by putting a teaspoon of Hydrogen Peroxide in one ear while tilting head so it stays in for a couple of minutes and then doing it in the other ear at the start of a cold. If this helped you, let me know. 
23Take Medicines if all else fails or if you need to get better fast:

Remember: Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids & Breathe humidified air
  • Take Mucinex over the counter to help with coughing if you need to work.
  • Take Cepacol for throat pain control: The major active ingredients of the sugar-free lozenges are cetylpyridinium chloridebenzocaine (which produces the numbing sensation), and menthol. The major active ingredient in the sore throat sprays is dyclonine hydrochloride.
    • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, and others) for pain contro
    • Dexamethasone as a single dose given orally (Decadron, DexPak) or by intramuscular injection (Adrenocot, CPC-Cort-D, Decadron Phosphate, Decaject-10, Solurex) may be used to treat croup.

    Eight Vitamins for Colds

    Zinc is nutritionally essential for immune function. Zinc lozenges and powder are available for use during a cold or the flu that can shorten the length of your cold if you have a slight deficiency. Zinc nasal sprays have not been shown to be as effective as Cold Eeze zinc lozenges in a study I found. Your body uses these micronutrients in a balanced state. Too much zinc interferes with copper bioavailability and too much iron can reduce your absorption of zinc. Foods rich in zinc include lobster, oysters, beef, crab, pork, cashews, chickpeas, chicken and Swiss cheese.
    2.Vitamin C
    See above: There is evidence that this water-soluble vitamin will shorten the life of your cold. People with higher blood levels also have a lower risk of death from all causes.Typically the higher the dose the better but one is limited to a relatively small amount with oral vitamin C. You can go much higher with IV or liposomal C. I personally use liposomal vitamin C 3 to 4 grams every hour when I get sick or for friends and family that get sick with great results.
    3.Vitamin D
    See above: Research studies have demonstrated that this fat-soluble vitamin is essential to the function of your immune system. However, while important to prevent a cold and the flu, supplementation during a cold may not shorten the length of the illness.
    Most people in the winter have suboptimal vitamin D levels. This will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, flu and other respiratory infections, so it’s important to make sure your levels are optimized.
    The importance of this mineral to your health has previously been underestimated. Researchers have identified a reduction in magnesium levels after strenuous exercise, leading to an increased number of viral infections. Supplementation during a cold will likely not reduce the length of your cold. However, an Epsom salt bath will reduce your muscle aches, aid in the absorption of magnesium from the Epsom salts and just make you feel better.
    5.Vitamin E
    This fat-soluble vitamin enhanced the T-cell-related immune-mediated response in an elderly population. However, while important for prevention, it is not likely to produce immediate results to shorten the length of your cold.
    6.Vitamin B6
    This vitamin is essential for the production of over 100 enzymes responsible for protein metabolism. Although important to your health, it does not shorten the length of your cold.
    7.Vitamin A
    This fat-soluble vitamin is important for the differentiation and regulation of almost every cell in your body, including normal immune function. This vitamin is important for the prevention of colds but will not shorten the length of your cold.
    This trace element is important in a variety of biological functions. However, while a severe deficiency can lead to significant viral infections it is highly unlikely that supplementation during a cold will reduce the length of your cold.

    11 Herbal Cold Remedies

    This is one of the most popular Native American medicinal plants. The research using Echinacea tea is not consistent. The studies that demonstrated the best effect at shortening the length of a cold occurred when you drink two to three cups of Echinacea tea per day starting on the first or second day of your cold.
    2.Ginseng and Andrographis
    Ginseng is a tuber plant and Andrographis is a plant native to South Asia. Double-blind studies have demonstrated that specific Siberian ginseng and andrographis reduce the length and severity of colds when you take it within 72 hours of the start of your symptoms.
    3.Pelargonium Sidoides
    Research has demonstrated that this obscure herb can reduce the severity and length of the common cold. Scientists theorize that the herb up-regulates the cytokines in protecting host cells from viral invaders.
    4.Raw Garlic
    Despite a report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that there is little evidence garlic has an effect on the common cold, some studies have found that raw garlic can prevent colds and reduce the severity of the cold you already have.Test this for yourself at home (be sure to crush the garlic cloves before eating to release their active medicinal properties).
    5.Oil of Oregano
    This concentrated oil of the oregano plant has potent antibacterial and antiviral effects. In one study, researchers found when in spray form in combination with four other aromatic plants it could immediately reduce the side effects of a cold. This treatment was no longer effective after three days of use. Oil of oregano should not be used by children, women who are pregnant or nursing or who plan to become pregnant.
    6.Licorice Root
    Licorice root is a traditional herbal remedy to treat colds and upper respiratory infections. To date there is no research that supports the use of licorice root to reduce the length of a cold.
    7.Olive Leaf Extract
    Widely known as a non-toxic immune system support, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest olive leaf extract will reduce the length or severity of your current cold. A few studies have demonstrated its effectiveness at reducing the infectivity of the virus and reducing the inflammatory response in the body.
    8.Herbal Tea
    Herbal teas from Goldenseal, elderberry, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger may help support your immune system, soothe a sore throat and shorten your cold by up to one or two days.
    This is a powerful antioxidant that lowers the levels of two enzymes that cause inflammation. There is evidence that curcumin fights the cold virus in the test tube. Further, it supports the immune system and is effective in the prevention and treatment of several other diseases.
    This is a substance collected by bees from leaf buds and tree bark. This extract may be helpful in the reduction of the length and severity of your cold. Some clinical trials have reported reduced number of upper respiratory infections and a reduction in the length of the viral illness.
    11.White Willow
    The use of willow bark dates back to the time of Hippocrates when people were advised to chew on the bark of the tree to reduce pain and fever and even the pain of arthritis. The chemical properties of the bark are similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Pain and fever relief comes more slowly than aspirin but lasts longer. I have bough White Willow Bark to make tea in the past. This is a symptom reliever and will not change the length of your cold, though.

    More Information:

    Simple hygiene measures can help to prevent infection with the viruses that cause colds. These measures include:
    Hand washing is an essential and highly effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be wet with water and plain soap, and rubbed together for 15 to 30 seconds. It is not necessary to use antibacterial hand soap. Teach children to wash their hands before and after eating and after coughing or sneezing.
    Alcohol-based hand rubs are a good alternative for disinfecting hands if a sink is not available. Hand rubs should be spread over the entire surface of hands, fingers, and wrists until dry and may be used several times. These rubs can be used repeatedly without skin irritation or loss of effectiveness.
    It may be difficult or impossible to completely avoid people who are ill, although parents should try to limit direct contact.
    Most children with colds need not be excluded from day care or school. It is likely that they spread the virus before they developed cold symptoms.
    Using a household cleaner that kills viruses, such as phenol/alcohol (sample brand name: Lysol), may help to reduce viral transmission.
    If a child develops any of the following features, the parent should call their health care provider, regardless of the time of day or night.
    Refusing to drink anything for a prolonged period
    Behavior changes, including irritability or lethargy (decreased responsiveness); this usually requires immediate medical attention
    Difficulty breathing, working hard to breathe, or breathing rapidly; this usually requires immediate medical attention
    Parents should call the health care provider if the following symptoms develop or if there are general concerns about the child:
    Fever greater than 101°F (38.4°C) lasts more than three days. The table describes how to take a child’s temperature (table 1).
    Nasal congestion does not improve or worsens over the course of 14 days.
    The eyes become red or develop yellow discharge.
    There are signs or symptoms of an ear infection (pain, ear pulling, fussiness).
    The common cold is a group of symptoms caused by a number of different viruses. Children under six years average six to eight colds per year (up to one per month, September through April), with symptoms lasting an average of 14 days. This means that a child could be ill with intermittent cold symptoms for nearly half of the days in this time period, without cause for concern.
    Colds are most contagious during the first two to four days. People with colds typically carry the cold virus on their hands, where it is capable of infecting another person for at least two hours. Some cold viruses can live on surfaces (such as countertops, door handles, or toys) for as long as one day. Droplets containing viral particles can be exhaled into the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing.
    The signs and symptoms of a cold usually begin one to two days after exposure. In children, nasal congestion is the most prominent symptom. Children can also have clear, yellow, or green-colored nasal discharge. Fever (temperature higher than 100.4°F or 38°C) is common during the first three days of the illness. Other symptoms may include sore throat, cough, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and decreased appetite.
    Most children who have colds do not develop complications. However, parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of potential complications, including ear infections, asthma, sinusitis, and pneumonia.
    There have been few clinical trials of cold medications (antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines, and expectorants) in infants and children, and there are no studies that demonstrate any benefit in infants or children. We do not recommend their use in infants and children because of the lack of proven efficacy and the potential risk of dangerous side effects.
    Parents may give acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) to children older than three months or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) to children older than six months to treat discomfort associated with fever. Humidified air can improve symptoms of nasal congestion and runny nose. Honey may be helpful for nighttime cough in children older than 12 months.
    Parents should encourage their child to drink an adequate amount of fluids; it is not necessary to drink extra fluids.
    Antibiotics are not effective in treating colds. They may be necessary if the cold is complicated by a bacterial infection, like an ear infection, pneumonia, or sinusitis. Parents who think their child has developed one of these infections should contact their child’s health care provider. Inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance and can possibly lead to side effects, such as an allergic reaction.
    A number of alternative products, including zinc, vitamin C, and herbal products such as echinacea, are advertised to treat or prevent the common cold. There is some evidence that prophylactic use of vitamin C may decrease the duration of the common cold in children. With the exception of vitamin C, none of these treatments have been proven to be effective in clinical trials; their use is not recommended.
    Simple hygiene measures can help to prevent infection with the viruses that cause colds, including hand washing or use of an alcohol-based hand rub and limiting contact with others who are ill.
    • Sip on a warm mug of tea with honey to soothe a stuffy nose, sore throat or cough.
    • Enjoy a hot, steamy shower to help unclog nasal passages and relax you.
    • Run a humidifier. Make sure to change the water each day and clean the tank every couple of days to prevent mold.
    • Stack pillows in bed to stop mucous from collecting.
    • Take an over-the-counter cold medicine. Be sure to read ingredient labels carefully, and don’t use more than one medication at a time.
    • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Listen to soothing music or have a cup of tea, and head back to bed after 20 minutes.

    Original Posting from 2014

    These are the best ways to fight a cold and, from personal experience, the flu, before it starts. 

    Recently, many co-workers started calling in sick with the flu. Most missed at least 2 or 3 days of work. I could feel the flu coming on: it started with a sore throat and then my body started aching. “Did they touch or cough the computer key board and I did not wash my hands well enough before touching my face,” I thought. 

    Within a day, I began to feel the body aches worsening and a slight tingle in my throat. I immediately started an intense course of zinc lozenges (Cold Eeze is still my favorite for this) every hour (with no citrus, or minerals, Mg+, Ca+: taken 30 min before or after: I just avoid all minerals & citrus when I’m taking zinc). I took a hot shower before bed, went to bed early and was fine in the am and did not get sick.

    Even though Cold eeze and zinc lozenges in general do not claim to help with the flu and just claim to help to shorten the time of the cold, I am convinced it helps prevent a cold and even flu (though only have 2 case reports of me and my husband) and look forward to seeing randomized, controlled, double blinded studies, as this has happened a couple of times these last 2 years.

    Also since many pneumonias start off as a early bronchitis from either a virus or bacteria, it will be interesting to see if zinc lozenges might help prevent pneumonia in some patients.

    For the young kids (younger than 7), I hold the Cold Eeze in my hand and let them lick the lozenge as much as possible so they can get the zinc and not choke on the cough drop. I cannot wait till they make little lollipops for them. I make sure the child who is getting sick (is starting with sneezing in a house where the virus is making its rounds; or runny nose or says their throat is starting to hurt: you have to teach kids early to tell you as soon as they feel a little discomfort or pain in their throat for this to work) eats a piece of bread before I give the Cold Eeze as it can really upset the stomach if eaten on an empty stomach. 

    We now by bulk zinc lozenges every winter. So far the risk of zinc far outweigh the benefits.
    The only short term side effects I could find with zinc on line:
    -upset stomach if taken on empty stomach
    -loss of smell if a great deal is taken.

    Sandra Lora Cremers, MD, FACS

    Also see below:

    How Docs Kick Colds and Flu

    I go herbal. 

    “To prevent colds, I’m a fan of North American ginseng, a botanical supplement you can find at health food stores. You have to take two doses of it every day during flu season, but the payoff is worth it: You can count on an approximate 30 percent reduction in the incidence of catching colds, which is pretty great. I also recommend zinc. Take it at the start of your symptoms — 30 mg per day — and it will shorten the duration of your cold by half.”
    — David Katz, M.D., ABC News medical consultant and director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, CT


    1.  2003 Sep-Oct;10(5):324-9.

    An open-label, single-center, phase IV clinical study of the effectiveness of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges (Cold-Eeze) in reducing the duration and symptoms of the common cold in school-aged subjects.

    Author information

    The Heritage Center, Provo, Utah 84604, USA.


    Each year, more than 62 million cases of the common cold in the United States require medical attention and more than 80% affect school-aged children. The objective of this prospective, intent-to-treat, phase IV study was to determine the therapeutic and prophylactic effectiveness of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges (Cold-Eeze) for the common cold. Zinc lozenges were administered once daily during the cold season for prophylaxis. For therapeutic purposes, lozenges were given 4 times per day. The primary objective of the study was the treatment effect on cold duration, and the secondary objective was the effect on the number of common colds. A putative control from our previous study was used for comparison. A total of 178 children, ages 12 to 18 years, was enrolled, of which 134 met criteria for efficacy analysis. The average cold duration with therapeutic lozenge use was 6.9 +/- 3.1 days, significantly shorter than the 9.0 +/- 3.5 days found in the control group (P < 0.001). The mean number of colds was 1.28 +/- 1.03 with zinc lozenge prophylaxis versus 1.7 +/- 1.91 without prophylaxis (P < 0.05), a 25% reduction. With prophylaxis, 25% of the subjects did not experience a cold and two-thirds never had a cold or only had 1 cold. There was no antibiotic use for any cold, and there were no adverse events reported. Results of this study are consistent with those from our previous retrospective study showing significantly shorter cold duration and fewer colds with the use of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges. The zinc gluconate glycine lozenges are well tolerated and are an easy-to-administer therapy that has the potential to substantially reduce cold-related school absences and antibiotic use and misuse as well as to provide a cost saving.

    2. . Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Nov 1.

    Published in final edited form as:

    PMCID: PMC2812897
    NIHMSID: NIHMS170673

    Chronic Exercise Reduces Illness Severity, Decreases Viral Load, and Results in Greater Anti-Inflammatory Effects than Acute Exercise during Influenza Infection

    3.  2005 Nov-Dec;12(6):612-7.

    Safety of zinc gluconate glycine (Cold-Eeze) in a geriatric population: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial.


    Zinc gluconate glycine lozenges are an over-the-counter homeopathic remedy that significantly reduced the duration and severity of common colds in adults in 2 independent clinical trials. To evaluate the safety of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges in elderly individuals with 1 or more health conditions, with or without a cold. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial enrolled men and women between 60 and 91 years of age, who self-administered 1 zinc gluconate glycine or placebo lozenge every 3 to 4 hours for 6 days. One or more of the following conditions was present in the study population: arthritis, cancer, depression, heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, osteoporosis, prostate disease, and stroke. Assessments were performed at baseline and at 7 (+/-1 day) and 14 days. The safety evaluation considered physical examinations, clinical laboratory tests, vital signs, adverse events, and concomitant medications. Of 75 persons enrolled, 66 completed the study. Safety assessments demonstrated no clinically significant differences between treatment groups. Four participants taking zinc tablets and 3 participants taking placebo tablets reported mild adverse events. Of those participants taking zinc tablets, 6 adverse events were possibly related to the study product and 2 adverse events were probably related to the study product. Of those participants taking placebo tablets, 3 adverse events were reported that were possibly related to the study product. No serious or clinically significant adverse events were noted. Zinc gluconate glycine lozenges are safe and well tolerated by a geriatric population and are suitable for prophylactic or therapeutic use to reduce the duration or severity of the common cold.

    4.  1998 Nov;30(11):1578-83.

    The effect of exercise training on the severity and duration of a viral upper respiratory illness.



    The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether exercise training affects the severity and duration of a rhinovirus-caused upper respiratory illness (URI).


    Subjects who were rhinovirus 16 (RV 16) antibody-free completed a graded exercise test. Thirty-four individuals (ages 18-29 yr) of moderate fitness (32 to 60 were randomly assigned to the exercise group (EX) while 16 additional individuals of similar age and fitness served as a nonexercise (NEX) control group. All EX and NEX subjects were inoculated with RV 16 on 2 consecutive days. EX subjects completed 40 min of supervised exercise every other day at 70% of heart rate (HR) reserve for a 10-d period. Every 12 h, all subjects completed a 13-item symptom severity checklist and a physical activity log. Used facial tissues were collected and weighed (symptom severity measure) during these same reporting periods.


    A two group by nine measure (2 x 9) repeated measures ANOVA procedure showed no difference in symptom questionnaire mean scores and the mucous weights of the EX and NEX groups for days 2-10 of the experiment. A two measure by five measure (2 x 5) repeated measures ANOVA procedure indicated no differences between the pre- and post-exercise questionnaire means for the five sessions that EX subjects exercised. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.


    These results suggest that moderate exercise training during a rhinovirus-caused URI under the conditions of this study design do not alter the severity and duration of the illness.

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