A child about to sneeze.

Split second before a sneeze.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

No one wants to deal with the symptoms of a cold during a disaster—actually during any time, now that I think of it. But being in close quarters with others will put you at increased risk. Even if you’re a loner, the natural stress of the situation is going to lower your immune system.

So what can you do? Antibiotics won’t help. In fact, treating a cold is one of those times when natural solutions may be the only solution.

The journal American Family Physician has a new article called “Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults.” There’s still no cure, but this article cites proven methods to prevent colds and to shorten the course if you have one. Some things work better on children than adults and vice versa.

Proven Methods to Treat Colds in Children

First, here’s what studies have shown work on children to prevent colds:

  • Chizukit. This commercial solution is a mixture of 50 mg per ml of echinacea, 50 mg per ml of propolis (a product from beehives), and 10 mg per ml vitamin C. Children one to three: Take 1 teaspoon twice a day. Children four to five: Take 1 ½ teaspoons twice a day. You can order Chizukit online, but I’m not sure where else you can buy it. If anybody knows, please post it in the comments. Or you could buy the ingredients separately.
  • Nasal irrigation with saline in children over 6 years old: Irrigate with ½ to 2 teaspoons three times a day. (Hope you have a cooperative kid for this one. See the end of this post for a video on how to irrigate.)
  • Probiotics containing Lactobacillus acidophilus. (You can get this in pharmacies or grocery stores. Use as directed.)
  • Vitamin C. (Use as directed.)
  • Zinc sulfate. Children one to ten years old: Take 1 tablespoon daily. Children 11 and older: Take one tablet (10 mg) daily. (Available from pharmacies and health-food stores.)

If your child gets a cold anyway, these treatments soothe the symptoms:

  • Buckwheat honey, which helps stop coughing. Ages two to five: ½ teaspoon at bedtime. Ages six to eleven: 1 teaspoon at bedtime. Ages twelve to eighteen: 2 teaspoons at bedtime. Don’t give honey to babies since it can have a few botulism spores. Because of their small size, some babies have actually died from this. There aren’t enough spores to harm older children or adults.
  • Vapor rub. Apply about a teaspoon to the chest and neck for ages two to five or about 2 teaspoons for children 6 and up. (My mother has been proven right once again.)

Finally, these treatments can shorten the duration of a cold in children:

  • Nasal irrigation with saline for anyone six and over. Use ½ to 2 teaspoons per nostril. (For babies, I’ve often recommended a saline drop or two in the nose followed by immediate bulb-syringe suction.) I suspect you’re going to have to have a lot of patience to get a six-year-old to cooperate.
  • Umcka ColdCare (geranium extract, from health-food stores) in children one to eighteen: ten to thirty drops depending on age. (See the label.) Use for seven days.
  • Zinc sulfate syrup, available from pharmacies and health-food stores. Take as directed. Start within 24 hours of the first cold symptoms. You can give it for up to 10 days.
Proven Methods to Treat Colds in Adults

No fair if your child doesn’t get a cold but you do. Here’s how to help prevent one in yourself:

  • Garlic, or a supplement containing 180mg of the garlic extract allicin. Take 180 mg daily.
  • Vitamin C—0.25 to 2 grams daily.
  • Good old frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water. This remains the best method to avoid getting a cold. The waterless hand cleaners work also.
  • Avoiding stress. It’s not mentioned in the article, but recent studies prove that stress increases your risk for colds. Regular exercise, meditation, and prayer have been shown to decrease your risk.

If your prevention attempts are a major fail and you get a cold anyway, the following treatments may shorten its duration. You can get them all at health-food stores.

  • AP-Bio (the herb andrographis paniculata): 200 mg per day for five days.
  • Echinacea purpurea (herbal extract): 4 milliliters (a little less than a teaspoonful) twice a day or twenty drops every two hours on day one, followed by twenty drops three times a day for up to ten days.
  • Umcka ColdCare: thirty drops three times a day for up to ten days.

Over-the-counter decongestants, with or without antihistamines, won’t shorten a cold’s duration, but they will make you feel better.

All of the above cold treatments have good studies to back them up. Have you tried any? If so, how did they work for you?

Next post, I’ll cite the methods that have been proven by studies to not be effective.

Bonus: Nasal-Irrigation Video

Here’s a video about how to irrigate with a neti pot. You can alternately use a bulb syringe you can get from a pharmacy.

Photo by Nathan LeClair on Flickr.