Do These 10 Cold Remedies Actually Work?

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It’s everyone’s not-so-favorite time of year — cold season. 

If you’re confined to your bed with a box of tissues, there’s no doubt you’re looking for some relief. We rounded up the 10 most-searched cold remedies on Yahoo and tapped board-certified general internist Holly Phillips, MD, a Yahoo Health advisory board member, medical contributor to CBS News, and author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough, to vet each one. Read on to find out whether these oft-used cold remedies actually work.

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It reduces fever and relieves pain (which is good for aches from viral syndromes like the common cold). It’s the only fever reducer that can be used in kids under 6 months of age.

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It reduces fever and pain, and also lessens inflammation, which may further soothe aches and pains. It can be used in kids older than 6 months, as well as adults.

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Maybe a little.

Based on current studies, it seems that vitamin C won’t help prevent colds in the average person. However, taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms. 

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A recent review of 18 randomized, controlled studies suggested that zinc (lozenges or syrup) reduced the average length of a cold in otherwise healthy people when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Be sure to avoid intranasal zinc, which may result in permanent damage to the sense of smell.

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It reduces fever, pain, and inflammation, similarly to ibuprofen. It should be avoided in children and teenagers because it’s been linked with a rare but severe condition called Reye’s syndrome in young people.

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Kinda – at least, it probably won’t hurt.  

A vaporizer or humidifier can add moisture to the air in your home, which might help loosen congestion.  

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Not yet clear.

Echinacea is thought to strengthen the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells. But studies have not shown consistently that it can prevent colds in particular. Echinacea interacts with a number of different drugs, so check with your doctor first.

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Nasal sprays with the decongestant pseudoephedrine work within seconds to clear up a stuffy nose, but they should only be used intermittently and never for more than three days. Long-term use causes a rebound effect in which the nasal passages swell unrelated to the illness.

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Effects are minimal, but it does loosen up nasal mucus and congestion without a rebound effect.

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Antihistamines primarily treat nasal congestion from allergies by blocking histamine receptors released in an allergic reaction, but some people find them modestly effective for the common cold as well. Some antihistamines, like Benadryl, contain diphenhydramine, which causes sedation.

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