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Healthy Living: Natural help for colds

You know it’s coming – coughs, runny noses, sore throats, all the symptoms that signal the beginning of the winter cold and flu season in your house.

There’s often not a lot you can do for a common cold. The symptoms are going to hang around seven to 10 days, no matter what prescription or over-the-counter medicines you throw at them. The most you can often do is try to lessen the severity of that cough or sore throat. And that does not always have to mean conventional medicines. Here are some old-fashioned (and newer-fangled) home remedies to remember this season if you want to try something more on the natural side:

Honey: Nature’s sugar, honey does more than just help the medicine go down; it can help medicate some symptoms. A teaspoon or two of honey, alone or dissolved in a hot liquid, can help alleviate sore throat pain. Newer studies indicate it can also help soothe and diminish coughs, even nagging nighttime ones. Finally, honey has antioxidant properties, so it can help boost your body’s immune system, so you can fight off new colds better.

Zinc lozenges: Especially in the last few years, zinc has been hailed by some as a miracle cure for colds; fans claim that zinc lozenges, allowed to dissolve in the mouth, can reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. The benefit is thought to be linked to zinc’s antioxidant properties, which help stave off infection and inflammation. And although the most recent studies have supported zinc’s usefulness in fighting off cold symptoms, other scientific reviews have been inconclusive. For the best chance of working, zinc should be taken at the first signs of a cold, and used no more than five days.

Chewable vitamin C: Again, scientific reviews are mixed. However, some studies have shown that taking extra vitamin C can shorten the duration of some cold symptoms. Also, vitamin C has antioxidant properties, which help your immune system in general

Fluids, fluids, fluids:  Stay hydrated.  You need to drink even more water than you normally do, to help your body flush out toxins, and aid in the production of mucus. If you like, clear juices, broths and tea, especially green tea, which has lots of powerful antioxidants, can also help. Stay away from coffee and caffeinated sodas, which dehydrate you. Finally, a hot toddy may relax you, but it may not be the best choice; alcohol is also a known dehydrating substance. Better to stick with plain, non-alcoholic drinks until you feel better.

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