5 treatments that can help the common cold
There are around 200 different viruses that cause the common cold – that’s why it’s so hard to develop an effective vaccine. On average, children will catch 6 to 8 colds per year, and for adults it’s a little less, at about 2 to 4 colds per year. The symptoms can last for a week or two, and often include runny nose, tiredness, and sometimes sore throat, headache and fevers.
What treatments work for the common cold?
There are many cold and flu remedies available over the counter from your chemist for the common cold, and it can be very hard to know which to choose. There has been quite a bit of research into this area- and whilst there are no quick fixes, some treatments do seem to be more helpful than others:
- Antihistamines ( such as Zyrtec and Claratyne) can be bought without prescription from a pharmacy, and will possibly reduce symptoms for adults during the first 2 days of a cold, but unfortunately they seem to be unhelpful for children.
- Nasal sprays such as Ipratropium (Atrovent), or Pseudoephedrine ( Sudafed) have shown some benefit, and are also available from your chemist.
- Simple painkillers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen seem to offer some benefit if there is fever or pain.
- “Combination medications”, which can be bought at a pharmacy, incorporate a painkiller, a decongestant and an antihistamine all in one product, and these may offer the best results, as they cover more symptoms. Some of the Codral products provide this combination in one pack, and there are other brands- a pharmacist can advise you. Given that three different medications are being taken at once, there is a slightly higher chance of side effects, though these are usually mild.
- Some research also suggests that zinc tablets taken during the first 2 days of a cold may also be helpful. But zinc nasal sprays should be avoided as they can permanently damage your sense of smell.
What about other alternative remedies?
Despite what many people say, there is no clear evidence that garlic, vitamin C, echinacea or Chinese medicines help. And homeopathy is also ineffective. But regular exercise does seem to reduce the number of colds a person gets. And happily, one side benefit of getting older is a lower chance of catching cold!
As with many viral illnesses, time and rest are often the most helpful factors in recovery from the common cold.