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Feel Better Faster: Which Home Remedies Soothe Cold/Flu Symptoms

By Brittani Moeller, DO December 04, 2018 Posted in: Wellness

When you’re sick with a cold or flu, you’ll try anything to feel better faster. Everyone has favorite home remedies, but do they work? Find out which of these actually relieve symptoms:

Do These Home Remedies Make You Feel Better?


Thumbs up. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend honey as a cough suppressant, but not for children younger than 1 year of age. Adding a teaspoon to warm water or tea coats your throat while providing the antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits.

Saltwater Gargle

Thumbs up. Gargling 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water can help relieve a sore or scratchy throat. It can also decrease throat swelling, while rinsing out germs and irritants. Try it four times a day, but not for children younger than 6 years old as they are unlikely to gargle properly.

Neti Pot

Thumbs up. Pouring distilled or sterilized water into one nostril and out the other can ease congestion, stuffiness, and thus reduce pressure and facial pain. Be sure to follow instructions to keep it sterile. Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays can also help relieve stuffiness and congestion.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Thumb sideways. There’s no conclusive evidence this amber liquid will prevent or shorten a cold. For a sore throat or to break up mucus, some recommend mixing ACV, cayenne pepper, and honey with water. Keep in mind the acidic liquid might actually irritate your throat and can damage the enamel on your teeth.

Chicken Soup

Thumbs up. Warm fluids in general help thin mucus and soothe sore throats. Some research has shown chicken soup helps relieve cold symptoms. Greek lemon chicken soup has also been touted as a symptom reliever and for its vitamin C content.

Vicks VapoRub on Feet

Thumbs down. This remedy is thought to have originated in 2007, in an email, from a nonexistent organization – the “Canada Research Council.” It has no basis in science. On the other hand, a 2010 study published in Pediatrics did find that putting it on the chest of children ages 2 to 11 will help relieve nighttime coughs.

Raw Onion on Feet

Thumbs down. This wives’ tale dates back to the 1500s, but there’s no scientific evidence this practice has any impact on colds or flus.

Nasal Strips

Thumbs sideways. These won’t decrease congestion, but they will create more space for airflow.

Vitamin C

Thumbs sideways. There’s no evidence vitamin C prevents colds. Some evidence exists that taking vitamin C before cold symptoms begin may shorten the duration. Vitamin C is good for everyday health – whether or not you have a cold.


Thumbs sideways. Study results are mixed – some show no benefit while others found some reduction in severity/duration of cold symptoms if it’s taken at the earliest stages of a cold. Echinacea can interact with other medications, so check with your care provider before taking it or other supplements.


Thumb sideways. Some studies found zinc can reduce cold length by a day, especially if taken within 24 hours of first symptoms. Zinc has potentially bad side effects like indigestion, headache and vomiting. Intranasal zinc has been linked to the long-term/permanent loss of smell.

Learn more about our flu shot options. Also, if you're feeling under the weather, see a doc right from your couch with Virtual Care.

Brittani Moeller, DO
Brittani Moeller, DO

Brittani Moeller, DO is a Family Medicine provider at CHI Health Good Samaritan Clinic.

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