Sidelines: Uncommon cures for the common cold

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It’s that season. I’m writing this on Tuesday, and if anyone survives to read this by Thursday I’ll be impressed. I can’t tell if it’s raining, snowing or hailing out there but I know it’s nasty.

The wind and the wet make this season prime for colds. It seems like everyone’s got at least a sniffle, and I for one have been popping cough drops like Tic-Tacs.
There are lots of home remedies for colds, some of which have the potential for permanent side-effects. So let’s talk about a few of them.

First, vitamin C. Vitamin C is hailed as the silver bullet for cold treatment. In fact, a 2013 study with more than 11,000 participants found that for the general population, taking extra vitamin C doesn’t reduce the chance of getting a cold. Taking at least 200 mg per day did reduce the duration of symptoms in adults by eight percent in adults, but this was only with daily intake. So you can’t just start taking it when you get sick.

Taking vitamin C in doses above 2,000 mg per day can cause health problems, including kidney stones, nausea and diarrhea.

Another remedy that’s been getting a lot of attention lately is zinc. A 1984 study suggested that zinc supplements keep people from getting sick. Since then there have been other studies looking more closely at these claims.
An analysis of the literature on zinc by the Mayo Clinic concluded that taking zinc lozenges within 24 hours of symptoms may reduce the duration of a cold by up to a day.

Lozenges are the most effective way to take zinc, since it allows the zinc to coat the throat and prevent rhinovirus from settling. Nose sprays have been reported to cause permanent loss of sense of smell.

Lozenges should have between 13 to 23 milligrams to be effective. The US National Institute of Health suggests a limit of 40 mg per day for a healthy person, but this can be exceeded for up to five days; roughly the length of a cold. During a cold, they recommend taking no more than one every three hours.
There are lots of home remedies out there. Make sure to do your research before believing what the common wisdom suggests. Stay healthy!