Preventing and Treating the Common Cold

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Story Updated: Jan 30, 2014

Every year adults face two to three bouts Double that rate for children under two. But now a broad new review of current research has unearthed some helpful tips for the best way to both prevent, and treat, the common cold.

Pouring through 67 completed studies, researchers found that prevention help is just a faucet away, with hand washing likely the most effective means for lowering risk. Alcohol disinfectants also appear to be helpful. Among children specifically, a daily regimen of zinc supplements seemed to lower both cold frequency and the number of school days missed.

Some evidence also highlighted the potential protective benefit of probiotics.

But if the cold train has already left the station, studies indicate that antihistamines- taken together with decongestants and/or pain medications offer the best shot at minor to moderate relief among adults and older children. For straightforward pain or fever control, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective particularly ibuprofen for feverish children. And while ineffective against congestion, nasal sprays containing the allergy drug ipratropium might just stop a runny nose in its tracks.

The researchers say the jury's still out on alternative treatments like vapor rubs, ginseng, gargling and homeopathy.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines with health information for your entire family.

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