cold remedies

Flu and cold season is here, and if it's anything like last year (which, by the way, was the longest flu season we have had in a decade) we need to prepare. Every year, mamas swear by the best way to combat colds but do they really work? How many times have you loaded up on vitamin C and you never felt better? And what about dark chocolate—does it really reduce coughs?

Whatever you decide to take (or not) just remember to check with your provider to make sure what you're experiencing is "just a cold."

We're breaking down popular cold remedies every mama should be familiar with. Here are remedies to try (and some to avoid) this cold and flu season:

1. Honey

Exactly how honey works to reduce cough is not fully understood, but some ways include increasing salivary production, changing how much mucus the body makes, and causing the brain to increase the level of irritation needed to trigger a cough. Remember, though, honey should never be administered to infants less than 12 months due to the risk of botulism.

2. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate (containing higher levels of cocoa) may be beneficial in cough suppression. Cocoa contains a compound called theobromine, which has been found to reduce activity in nerves carrying cough signals to the brain and reduce inflammation and airway spams in the lungs. Finally, the sweetness in dark chocolate can work similarly to honey to reduce cough.

3. Hydration

Hydration is an important part of managing cold symptoms. Cough, increased rate of breathing, fever and congestion (symptoms often seen in children with colds) can all lead to dehydration. Keeping children hydrated is an important part of keeping their bodies functioning well, both to help with fighting the cold and to prevent more serious illness related to dehydration. In infants, the best way to hydrate is through breastfeeding. For older children (toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children), water is the best way to hydrate. In addition, high-water containing foods (soups, watermelon, etc) can also help children stay hydrated.

4. Chicken soup

Turns out, Grandma was right—chicken soup is apparently not only for helping the soul, it also prevents migration of neutrophils, powerful white blood cells critical to triggering inflammation during a cold. Chicken soup also promotes secretory IgA, one of the first lines of defense in fighting viruses along mucous linings.

5. Breastfeeding

Breastmilk benefits can especially be seen in its immune benefits in fighting viruses and other infections in infants. Breastmilk passes immunity from mother to baby for diseases that exist in their shared environment and also promotes a baby's innate ability to fight infection through strengthening their first-line disease-fighting ability (such as mucosal immunity). It can also reduce incidence of secondary infections seen after colds, such as ear infections.

6. Vitamin C.

Surprisingly, vitamin C is generally not found to be effective in the prevention and treatment of the common cold. Clinically, I don't recommend this in children because the evidence isn't strong and many supplements are not subject to any regulations. If parents wish to integrate Vitamin C-rich foods through diet, such as eating orange slices, there would not be any harm (and possibly some benefit) with such interventions.

7. Echinacea

Echinacea is a herb that's used as a dietary supplement for the common cold and other infections, based on the idea that it might stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection. Echinacea's effects for common cold treatment are mixed in general populations. In higher-quality studies (more reliable and larger), Echinacea has not been found to be effective in children. It's also important to note that we don't know if it's safe to digest echinacea while breastfeeding.

8. Zinc

Zinc has had some mixed findings in studies, but higher-quality studies in children found no effect. I don't recommend zinc because it can damage a patient's sense of smell. I feel the risk of use outweighs the questionable clinical benefit, especially when there are other safer and more effective home remedies.

You might also like:

In This Article