Doctor IDs Cold Remedies That Actually Work

Cold season is starting to kick into high gear.

The common cold is caused by rhinovirus and other airborne viruses, which can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat and low-grade fever, among other unpleasant symptoms. Typically, a cold lasts around five to seven days, but it could potentially trigger secondary infections like strep throat, pneumonia and ear, sinus and lung infections.

There is no cure for the cold, but there are a number of “remedies” that claim to make people feel better faster. Dr. Yael Halaas, a New York City ear, nose and throat doctor and a member of the American Medical Association, helped us identify what cold remedies work and which ones do not.

SLIDESHOW: Cold Remedies: Myth vs. Fact


“There isn't a tremendous amount of evidence that echinacea actually is beneficial,” Halaas said. “It doesn't seem to be harmful in any way, but there isn't a tremendous amount of data that it's actually preventing or helping the cold leave faster.”

Chicken Soup

“There is actually some nice data that shows that chicken soup is more than just a comfort food, that there really is something inherent within the ingredients of the soup that has some antioxidant and maybe even some antibacterial activity,” Halaas said.

Vitamin C

According to Halaas, there is not very much data showing that large doses of vitamin C can actually prevent or shorten the duration of a cold.


“Humidity really helps our body to keep our airways nice and moist, as well as soothe them if we're coughing a lot,” Halaas said. “Additionally, a lot of humidity in the environment makes it harder for the cold viruses to actually travel.”


Halaas most heavily favored zinc for treating colds, saying: “Zinc actually happens to be my favorite out of all of these because there are some very nice studies that show that zinc glucanate can decrease the duration of your cold by up to 42 percent.”

However, Halaas added that the best medicine is actually prevention. To avoid coming down with a cold, she recommended that people wash their hands regularly, wash common surfaces, exercise, eat well and keep hydrated.