Health & Fitness

Treating the common cold: Remedies differ for children and adults

Cold weather is here and many are experiencing the common cold in full force – runny nose, mucus production, headache, sore throat, fever, fatigue and body aches. While there is no real “cure” for the common cold and antibiotics can’t treat a virus, over-the-counter cough suppressants and fever reducers can ease the symptoms.

If your goal is to shorten the duration of a cold, drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest are essential. There are also some natural remedies you can try; however, a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective for adults and children.

Therapies that are not effective in children or adults include over-the-counter antihistamines, Echinacea and vitamin C. Additionally, Benadryl and decongestants are not effective in children, while codeine and nasal irrigation are not effective remedies for adults.

So what does work?

The duration of a cold depends on your body’s immune system, which is dependent upon your diet, the fluids you drink and your overall health. Adults can recover more quickly by using some of the following supplements known for strengthening the immune system and decreasing the duration of the common cold:

▪ Echinacea purpurea — 4 milliliters twice daily for eight weeks or 20 drops daily for 10 days

▪ Geranium extract — 30 drops three times per day for 10 days

▪ Supplements that contain zinc acetate or gluconate

Children may benefit from:

▪ Buckwheat honey — Use 2.5 milliliters for 2- to 5-year-olds, 5 milliliters in 6- to 11-year-olds, and 10 milliliters in 12- to 18-year-olds. Not for use in children under 2 years of age.

▪ Saline nasal irrigation — Use 3 to 9 milliliters per nostril in 6- to 10-year-olds for up to three weeks.

▪ Geranium extract — Use 10 to 30 drops in children 1 to 18 years old for seven days.

▪ Vapor rub — Use 5 milliliters in 2- to 5-year-olds and 10 milliliters in 6- to 11-year-olds.

▪ Zinc sulfate — Use 15 milligrams to 5 milliliters in 1- to 10-year-olds for 10 days.

While taking vitamin C doesn’t help to reduce the duration of a cold, it, as well as garlic, can be beneficial in preventing the common cold. Children may also benefit from saline nasal irrigation, probiotics and zinc sulfate.

In addition to dietary supplements, you can improve your chances of a speedier recovery by:

▪ Washing your hands often (or use hand sanitizer when hand-washing is not an option). Germs are spread from a contagious person to a healthy person typically by hand, whether directly or indirectly.

▪ Drink plenty of fluids. You can’t flush a cold out of your system, but drinking water and other liquids, like orange juice, will help prevent dehydration and maintain your body’s fluids.

▪ Resting. In order for your body to recover from a virus, you must get plenty of rest.

▪ Spending some time in the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can kill cold viruses, just as ultraviolet light can kill surface germs.

▪ Treating the symptoms.

▪ Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and nutrients to help boost your body’s immune system.

For additional information about how supplements may benefit you or your child, talk to your doctor.

Emily C. VinZant is a family medicine physician for Via Christi Clinic on George Washington Boulevard.