By Dr. Nina Radcliff

It’s that time of year again where the common cold becomes particularly, common. Not only does it bring about uncomfortable symptoms–runny nose, congestion, sneezing, scratchy throat, coughing, and in some cases fever—it can also result in missed days of school and work.

On average, adults catch the common cold 2 to 4 times a year and children 6 to 8 times a year. Cold symptoms typically last a week, but in children and older adults, and those with multiple medical issues, it may last longer. At this time there are no known cures for the common cold, but there are a number of common and not so common home remedies that may alleviate these symptoms and help support our immune system.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Common and Uncommon Home Remedies For The Common Cold:

Over-the-counter medications
Antibiotics are of no use against cold viruses. And too, over-the-counter (OTC) cold preparations won’t cure a common cold or make it go away any sooner – and it is important to note that most have side effects. That being understood, there are over-the-counter medications available for aches and pains (Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve) as well as several products that can help relieve congestion, nasal discharge, and postnasal drip. The key is to always discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if these medications are safe for you including information with other medications you are taking or conditions you have.

Rest, plenty of fluids, gargling
When starting to battle a cold, we can support our immune system by getting a good night’s sleep, and decreasing stress. And too it is important to make sure to drink plenty of fluids to soften and clear mucus and gargle with salt water (washes away the mucus lining in our throat that protects the germs causing the sickness).

Chicken noodle soup
It may not only be good for our soul, but also our colds. When the broth is made from chicken bones, it is jam-packed with a number of vitamins and minerals that can stimulate our immune system. Additionally, the warmth of the soup can help reduce sinus and throat pain.

Listening to Music
Music has served as a medicine for centuries as is evidenced by its role in healing rituals. Today, we are starting to understand how tunes and notes can directly enhance our immune system. In a study from Wilkes University, researchers found that when students listened to soothing music, their levels of IgA—a type of antibody that is present on mucosal surfaces such as nostrils, mouth, lungs—increased. IgA is often referred to as the immune system’s first line of defense.

In another study from Tokyo Medical and Dental University Graduate school, listening to music for sixty minutes was shown to increase the level of natural killer (NK) cell activity. These immune cells have the important job of attacking bacteria, infected cells, and even cancer. Now that’s music to my ears.

Putting on a pair of COLD wet socks
Although there is no science to back up the efficacy of this claim, there are some die-hard believers. The theory of why it works lies in a concept called “homeostasis”—the property of a system in which variables are regulated to that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant. In other words, when we make our feet cold, blood from other parts of the body rush to our “little piggies” to warm them up. It is postulated that getting circulation moving helps to relieve congestion from the nose and throat area and increases blood flow through lymph nodes (important tissue that filters blood and contains immune cells).

Moderate exercise
Staying physically active has a number of health benefits, including supporting our immune system function to fight off germs. In a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked a half-hour every day for one year had half the number of colds compared to women who do not exercise. The authors of this study believed that this was because exercise boosts the number of white blood cells which fight off infections.

But how about when you are already sick? Exercise can boost endorphins (our body’s natural pain killer), has an anti-inflammatory effect, and may help break up congestion. It is generally considered safe. However, there are some situations to watch out for. If you have heart or lung disease or a fever, exercising while ill can exacerbate these conditions.

Dark chocolate
This yummy food item contains a chemical called theobromine. In a study presented at The British Thoracic Society’s meeting in 2012, they discussed how theobromine blocked the action of sensory nerves in those with colds. Think of postnasal drip or how swallowing just a drop of food or liquid the wrong way elicits a powerful cough reflex. The researchers also stated that theobromine is more effective at suppressing coughing than codeine, a prescription, controlled substance! And what’s more, it lacks the side effects of feeling sleepy or dull.

Raw onions
This round vegetable with many layers has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The pungent odor of onions comes from its sulfur-containing compounds, and is also believed to bestow some antibacterial properties. Additionally, the compound quercetin is an antioxidant that can boost the immune system. At this time, few quality clinical trials have supported this. However, there is little downside to eating vegetables and adding an onion to yummy chicken noodle soup often only makes it yummier.

Research shows that when folks start to feel sick they often rush to their local drug store – however, it’s time to seek the most well-supported cold treatments which you can find at home.

So when you start to get those dreaded chills, body aches, sore throat or cough — don’t let these common cold symptoms put your body, mind and soul in the doldrums…the miracle is in the house!! Get some rest, keep positive and take care of yourself by utilizing these time proven wisdoms.