Remedies for the Common Cold

So we covered all the symptoms of Colds Cold Symptoms Breakdown

Fluids –

    1. A study conducted at the University of Nebraska showed that chicken broth had lots of benefits for cold symptoms.  First, it’s a no-sugar liquid to hydrate.  Second, the broth itself contains antioxidants from the marrow of the bones and the vegetables that were used to make it. Antioxidants strengthen the antibodies to kill the virus. The amino acids produced during cooking decrease inflammation of the respiratory system and improve digestion.  Chicken and Whole Grain Noodles provide the weakened body with healthy slow released energy.  (Thanks Ma’)

They are filled with sugar, as in 12 packets of sugar a bottle, which feed viruses and interfere with the immune system function. For further info check this blog out: Sports Drink Breakdown  .  Also, the food coloring and chemical ingredients in these drinks weaken the immune system.  If you are thinking Powerade Zero or G2 – Uhmmmm NO!!  Fake sugars debilitate the gut bacteria, which is the crucial army that fights the viruses.

What about electrolytes?


During sleep your body increases the number of antibodies it produces.  Think building the army to fight the infection.  Furthermore, during sleep the melatonin levels rise.  Melatonin is a powerful anti-inflammatory that will decrease duration of snot, cough, congestion.  It decreases the swelling in your chest and nose.

How can infants rest with all the congestion?? Here is a trick I learned when I was a hospitalist. 


Place baby with head at the higher end of the crib and with his bum in the sling.  Use a tight fitting sheet to cover baby at belly button level and fit edges down the sides of the crib all around, hotel style. The cover needs to be snug but not so tight that the baby can’t breathe.  No loose items in the crib. Now these squirmy guys won’t go anywhere in the middle of the night.  (this also works for reflux)

  • In older kids – a Study done in Eastern Europe showed that kids who used saline nose sprays 3 times a day versus kids who used any over the counter remedies, got over their colds faster and needed less antibiotics in the long run.  (Grandmother’s around the world rejoiced at this study).  Spray, suck in, blow the nose.  You can spray this can in nares, tilt head sideways and its now a netti pot.


  • For infants and toddlers – You can put saline drops in the fridge and apply to baby noses as needed.  Cold saline decongests faster then room temperature saline.  Think ice pack on boo boo.  Saline comes in drops, no-drip sprays for finicky customers, or gel swabs.


  • Teach older kids to blow their nose while in the bathtub.  Have them put their face in water and have them make bubbles with their nose
  • Suction little baby noses with the Nose Freida





  • Several Studies done at Penn State (incidentally where I trained and recruited patients for this study), showed that Dark Buckwheat Honey was superior to Delsym, Robitussin, and Benadryl for night time cough.  Any local dark raw honey will do. The sugar in the honey produces more saliva which coats that sore throat better.  More saliva means less post nasal drip irritation, thus less night time cough.  Furthermore, local Honey is filled with antioxidants which are key to building up the immune system.  (once again Grandmas around the world say “Told Ya”).
  • There are now several OTC formulations like Zarby’s Cough Medicine – which is honey in a packet with flavoring.  I prefer the real deal local honey, but if the child is against the taste, give Zarby’s a go.  Ok to mix honey with a bit of lemon juice for vitamin C

Here is a Great Review of the Literature Discussing Zinc, Vitamin C, Echinacea, Probiotics, Dark Buckwheat Honey, Saline as remedies for the Common Cold. 

Baby Cough Syrup:

Zarbee’s Cough Syrup for Kids Older then 1yeas old – safe to use in children older then 1 years old.

Prevent the Spread –

Especially after cleaning kids noses, or cleaning one’s own nose.  After coughing, sneezing, and so on.  Soap and water people!  Lay off the hand sanitizers.  SAY NO to ANTIBACTERIAL soap.  Here is a link:  FDA Ruling on Antibacterial Soaps.



It helps with sore throats.  When people are congested they sleep with their mouth open which in turn dries out the throat.  A humidifier can help with this as well.

Antihistamines – in kids older then 6months

Oral Decongestants –

A review of the literature found that psudoephedrine (Sudafed) at 60mg can alleviated congestion, headache, fatigue in the first 1-2 days of cold.  By day 3 it was as good as placebo.  Word of Caution: pseudoephedrine can have side effects such as racing heart rate, jitteriness, increase in blood pressure. So if you have any heart conditions, this medicine is a NO.  This medicine can also keep you awake, so do not take at night.  Please speak with your doctor if this over the counter medicine is right for you or your child.  Do not just randomly get it.  Oral Decongestants and common cold

A review of literature found that there is a small but apparent effect in those older then 12yrs old using nasal decongestants in the first 2-3days of cold symptoms.  The Nasal Decongestants reduce inflammation in the nares, thus reducing congestion, headache, post nasal drip, and cough.  No effect was found in children based on the review.  Word of Caution: do not use nasal decongestants for more then 3 days, because it can cause a rebound effect, which can lead to more congestion.  Again, consult with your doctor on this medication.  Nasal Decongestants for the Common Cold

Trendy, but effective?  The new thing around town and on social media is essential oils.  What do the studies show?  We are dying to know!!!!



  • no essential oils on infants less then 6moths old
  • essential oil on older infants ok on bottom of feet
  • essential oil diffusers ok in children older then 2yrs old without a history of asthma.  Remember, just because it comes form a plant, it doesn’t mean it won’t cause swelling in the lungs (think pollen in the spring.  Pollen comes from plants.  Pollen causes irritation in the airway)
  • no evidence that using essential oils daily on children will prevent colds
  • there is a lot of a placebo effect with essential oils, and I do LOVE the placebo effect, as long as it causes no harm.
  • Can of Worms Opened !!!- happy to get links to studies that show how essential oils work for colds.  Not links to books, blogs, or opinion articles.  I need an actual study in a an actual journal.  Please educate me.


General Rule – they do not work.  Many studies done on these and none show an effect.  When the following meds seem to work, is it because the cold symptoms are getting better, or the cold symptoms wax and wane – which is the normal pattern.

Robitusin – No.  Does not work and is filled with chemicals.

Mucinex – First its gross.  Second it does nothing but make parents feel like they helped kids feel better.

Highlands Cough and Cold – No.  Their claim to fame is “natural”.  Uhmmmm…. So what?  No evidence it works.  Also, several kids have suffered nightmares from these natural formulas.  You know what else is natural, Opium.  That comes from the poppy seed.  Enough said!!


•••••••Lastly – if you have asthma, have wheezed before, or have been prescribed a nebulizer/inhaler before, and you are coughing, please use your inhaler or nebulizer.  Do not try to suppress the cough!!!  So many parents overlook the nebulizer/inhaler and reach for the Delsym or Mucinex.  Use the inhaler/nebulizer for cough and DO NOT wait to hear wheezing or to see respiratory distress •••••

In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple, MD

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