The Search for the Best Treatment for Common Cold Symptoms

Opinions vary about the best treatment for common cold symptoms. Zinc common cold remedies are much in the news, but some controversy surrounds their use.

Over the counter products, vitamin supplements and herbal remedies are really the only options a person has for treating a cold. Because colds are caused by viruses, there are no effective prescription medications and a visit to the doctor is usually unnecessary, unless a secondary bacterial infection, such as a sinus or ear infection occurs. Antibiotics are not effective for either preventing or treating a cold. Over-use of antibiotics has led to the development of more resistant strains of bacteria.

According to many experts, the best treatment for common cold symptoms is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Probably, because so many people have a busy lifestyle, pharmaceutical companies keep coming up with products like zinc common cold remedies and other multi-symptom cold relievers. Advertising for these products typically suggests that these can help you “get on with your life”. But many of these products have unwanted side effects. Some can be relatively serious, considering that cold symptoms are typically gone in a week or so.

Some people who have used a zinc common cold nasal spray or gel have lost their sense of smell. One company was sued and settled out of court without admitting fault. At least two different clinical studies have confirmed that these zinc common cold remedies effectively reduce the duration of symptoms, but other studies confirm that these preparations can cause a permanent loss of the sense of smell. In fact, one study performed by the George Eby Research Group in Austin, Texas concludes that “it is unethical to introduce any potentially permanent anosmia-inducing agent such as zinc or other heavy metals into the interior of the nose in a manner that could result in contact with the olfactory region to treat a temporary discomfort such as a common cold or allergy.” The term anosmia means loss of sense of smell.

Several other studies confirm that when zinc common cold remedies come into contact with the lining of the nose, permanent loss of the sense of smell can occur. Manufactures of these products claim that they may be the best treatment for common cold available and can reduce the duration of cold symptoms to as little as two days. But, in fact, many people recover from a common cold in a couple of days, anyway. Some viral infections last longer in some people and symptoms may last as long as two weeks, but the study in Texas showed that the zinc common cold remedies did not significantly reduce the duration of common cold symptoms. The majority of volunteers had recovered within a week, whether they were given the zinc common cold remedies or a placebo.

Because some people recover from symptoms so quickly, without treatment, it has been difficult for researchers to determine the best treatment for common cold symptoms. Some people are more susceptible to infection with cold viruses than others. A recent study indicates that asthma sufferers, who typically have more than their fair share of colds, produce less anti-viral proteins than normal. Supporting the belief that efforts to improve immune system function can be the best treatment for common cold symptoms, as well as the best prevention.

Vitamin C supplementation is considered, by some, to be the best treatment for common cold symptoms, but opinions vary. Some studies have shown that it is an effective preventative; others have shown it to be less effective. Again the difference in the results of these studies is probably related to the difference in people. Injecting the rhinovirus directly into the nose causes an infection in 95% of people, but only 75% of them develop any symptoms at all. If you decide to increase your vitamin C intake and you develop diarrhea, then you are getting too much vitamin C and should reduce the daily dosage.

Many herbalists still recommend Echinacea as the best treatment for common cold symptoms. Some still recommend it as a preventative, but clinical studies have shown that taking the herb for extended periods of time can be toxic to the liver. It was used traditionally by Native Americans as a treatment, not a preventative. For occasional use Echinacea appears to be safe, but there are safer herbs.

Andrographis paniculata, an herb used in traditional Asian medicine, may be the best treatment for common cold symptoms and an effective preventative. In one study, a group of volunteers were given the herb or a placebo and results showed that those who were given the herb were less likely to become infected with influenza viruses; these are some of the viruses that can cause common cold symptoms. In those people who took the herb and did develop the flu, symptoms were less severe and complications, such as pneumonia, did not develop. Andrographis paniculata has been shown to have no toxic effects on animals, even when used in large amounts.

The complications that are associated with zinc common cold nasal sprays or gels are not associated with dietary supplements of zinc. And, zinc is important to proper immune system function and overall good health. For more information about natural products that are believed to be the best protection from and the best treatment for common cold symptoms, visit