Cold Comfort: Rating the Effectiveness of Grandma’s Home Remedies

Grandmas are famous for their home remedies and their pithy words of wisdom. From making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear to rubbing an egg on your body to brushing your hair 100 strokes a night, we all probably have some favorite grandma words of wisdom and good habits that we incorporate into our daily lives.

And when do grandma’s words seem to ring in our heads the most? When we’re not feeling well, of course; that’s when most of us long for a little extra good, old-fashioned TLC.

Stricken with a cold and eager to snuggle up with a blanket, a bowl of soup, and a box of tissues? You might want to try some of grandma’s favorite remedies.

We’ve investigated a few of the more common ones and rated them as to how well they might actually help you get over a cold.

Grandma Cure #1: Cut down on the dairy.

Many people have heard that drinking milk and eating dairy products can make a cold worse by increasing mucus and making breathing more difficult. However, research doesn’t seem to indicate a noticeable difference in mucus production following dairy consumption.

In a blind test, some participants were given a milk-based drink, while others were given a soy substitute. Which group reported an increased difficulty in breathing?

The group that believed they were drinking dairy also believed their symptoms worsened. The emphasis there is on “believed,” because the placebo consumers also reported an increase in cold symptoms, which seems to indicate any correlations might be psychological rather than physiological.

Get Well Rating: 1 Granny; mind over matter seems to matter more when it comes to milk and mucus.

Grandma Cure #2: Sip on some hot tea with honey.

A hot tea, a hot toddy, hot water with honey and lemon – hot beverages seem to be a grandma favorite when it comes to curing a cold.

Surprisingly, the secret ingredient that packs a punch in these concoctions isn’t necessarily the tea. It actually is more likely to be the honey.

Cough medicines typically aren’t recommended for very young children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, in children age 2 and older, a couple of teaspoons of honey has proven to be an effective and affordable substitute for over-the-counter remedies.

One caveat: under no circumstances should honey be given to children under age 1, as it carries a risk of botulism poisoning for infants.

Get Well Granny Rating: 5 stars; honey is the key to sleeping cough-free.

Grandma Cure #3: Feed a cold, starve a fever.

This saying is half-true; and because the true half is the cold-related one, we’re giving it a high rating. Consuming food gives you energy, which is necessary to fight off infection and inflammation.

What about the perennial grandma favorite, chicken soup? Any truth to its magical cold fighting abilities? Absolutely.

The soup’s hot liquid keeps you warm and generates a vapor to loosen mucus. At the same time, it provides calories and hydration, both of which are crucial to moving past your cold. And, some research indicates chicken soup broth contains anti-inflammatory qualities, which can also help keep your sickness in check.

Get Well Granny Rating: 4.5 stars; this home remedy is chicken soup for the soul.

Grandma Cure #4: Rub some Vicks on your feet.

Many people, grandmas and parents alike, advocate for slathering Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the patient’s feet before bed.

The strong aroma of menthol in Vicks and similar unguents helps to open your airways and alleviate symptoms of congestion. But, here’s the rub, so to speak: you shouldn’t put Vicks on your feet for maximum effectiveness.

Rubbing Vicks on your chest area is perfectly safe and allows the vapors to travel a shorter distance to reach the nose, which increases its overall effectiveness. The rub should not be applied to the face, however, as it can cause serious complications if it touches the eye or the mucous membranes of the nose.

Get Well Granny Rating: 4 stars; Menthol isn’t a cure-all, but it can definitely help you feel a little more at ease.

One important thing to note: a cold is caused by a virus, so none of these treatments actually provide a bonafide cure for a cold. The effective ones can certainly help with alleviating some of the uncomfortable symptoms that come along with the common cold virus.

If you have a cold that lingers, keep track of your symptoms and visit one of our urgent care clinics.

Our physicians at Integra Urgent Care can provide you with additional ways to alleviate the discomfort of your symptoms. And, if your cold has stretched on for an extended number of days, we can check to ensure it hasn’t morphed into something more nefarious, like a sinus infection that needs antibiotics to be treated.

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