According to a recent story in The New York Times, a new review of medical research indicates that when taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms, zinc can cut a cold’s duration by up to three days as well as lessen the severity of symptoms.
What’s more, the research indicated that using zinc regularly helped to prevent colds and led to less frequent use of antibiotics in children. The mineral seems to work by preventing the cold virus from replicating or attaching to nasal membrane. But only if you reach for it at the first sneeze or tickle in your throat and keep taking it every 3-4 hours for four consecutive days. Pop just one or two tablets and you won’t see the same results.
Here are a few other ways to feel better when you have the sniffles, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:
• Chicken soup. According to the Mayo Clinic, this age-old remedy works by inhibiting the movement of immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. It also seems to help relieve congestion and cut down the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining
• Humidity. One reason colds are more common in winter is because the virus thrives in dry conditions. Dry air also dries the mucous membranes, causing a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. A humidifier can help relieve the symptoms, but since they can be breeding grounds for mold and fungi, be sure to change the water daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Saline nasal drops and sprays. While they won’t cure you, they can combat congestion without drugs (which, according to a 2007 study, have been shown to reduce symptoms by just 6%). And unlike nasal decongestants, saline drops and sprays don’t lead to a rebound effect—a worsening of symptoms when the medication is discontinued. Plus, most are safe and nonirritating, even for babies and young children.