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The cure for the common cold

While there's no good time to come down with a cold, it can sometimes feel like colds always strike at the worst possible time. In order to get you feeling back to normal as soon as possible, here are the tips I recommend to my patients. 

Pelargonium sidoides, which is sold under various brand names like Umcka, Umckaloabo, Kaloba or Zucol, is truly a secret weapon for the common cold. Although largely unknown, this herb native to South Africa, is effective at making cough, sore throat and cold symptoms go away two to three days faster. It's not found at most pharmacies, but co-ops and online retailers carry it. I personally start using this whenever I feel a cold coming on.

Zinc has been shown to modestly shorten cold symptoms. This mineral, to be effective, needs to be taken every three hours starting at the beginning of symptoms and is not as effective as pelargonium.

Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory such as Aleve, is an effective cough suppressant for adults and can be used night or day. For nighttime use, sedating antihistamines like generic Benadryl or NyQuil can help alleviate a cough.

• Neti pot used twice daily can help if you are suffering from nasal congestion and three to five days of oxymetazoline over the counter nasal spray, like Afrin, to help you breathe easier. Non-medicated nasal sprays (Ocean Spray, others) are helpful for keeping painful, dry nasal passages moist.

• A tablespoon of honey two to three times per day can help if you are looking for a drug-free way to fight a cough. Dark honey works best. It doesn't have to coat your throat, so you can bake it into your favorite recipe. Also, having a hard candy, like a jolly rancher, can be just as effective as a medicated cough drop.

• Unfortunately, over-the-counter cough syrups were NOT found to be very effective, and data showing vitamin C to be helpful is limited. 

If you want to try and avoid getting a cold, take probiotics daily in capsule form or through yogurt to reduce the chances of getting a cold by 40-50 percent. Of course, you should also make sure you are washing your hands, avoid touching your face and mouth and continue eating a healthy diet and staying active to maintain a healthy immune system.

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