Zinc? Honey? Ginger? What Actually Helps When You Have a Cold or the Flu? – The New York Times

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Here’s what we know about some of the most popular remedies that show at least a little promise.
Alisha Haridasani Gupta and
It’s that time of year again, when stuffy noses and irrepressible coughs start to show up everywhere.
The best precaution you can take against influenza or Covid infection is to get vaccinated. But there is little you can do for the common cold and other respiratory illnesses, especially once you get sick. Most are caused by viruses, so you cannot cure them with antibiotics, which are used to treat bacterial infections. While drugs like Paxlovid are accessible for treating Covid, antiviral treatments for influenza, like Tamiflu, are usually reserved for people who have tested positive for the flu and are at risk of developing severe complications, such as those who are pregnant, elderly or immunocompromised.
For everyone else, doctors suggest resting and waiting out your symptoms — which for flu, can include a fever, headache, body aches and a stuffy or runny nose that lasts three to five days. Some people may also develop a cough or sore throat or experience fatigue, which can last a little longer, said Dr. H. Keipp Talbot, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Symptoms of the common cold are incredibly similar, which is why people tend to “call everything that’s in the winter the flu,” Dr. Talbot said. But cold symptoms are generally slower to build up, are milder than what you would experience with the flu and are unlikely to result in serious health problems. (People with Covid also experience respiratory symptoms; testing is the best way to know which virus you most likely have.)
“There’s a saying that if you treat a cold, it goes away in seven days, if you leave it alone, it goes away in a week,” said Dr. Aviva Romm, a physician who specializes in integrative medicine.
For generations, countless home remedies — cups of warm tea or soups and spoonfuls of herbs — have helped manage cold and flu symptoms, like a sore throat or congestion. Scientists have conducted research over the years attempting to quantify how effective some of those remedies are, how frequently they should be used and what formulations work best. But the studies are often small or don’t show much efficacy.
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