Cough & Cold - Using Natural Products

Jan 9, 2017

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Winter is definitely here, and although CKDM is my favorite radio station, and I love their accurate weather reporting, they just haven't been able to do a very good job of actually warming up the forecast. The way the winter is going, we are likely going to have a long cough and cold season to deal with. Now having a 1 year old son to bring home all the good viruses from daycare, I am having a little more significant cough and cold season right from the start. Likely, most of us will have to miss some time away from our occupations or our children will have to miss time at school. The common cold is a widespread illness and is a leading cause of doctor visits and the number one cause of absenteeism from work or school.

School aged children can have as many as 12 colds per year and adults usually have between two to four episodes annually. Common colds can lead to more complications such as ear infections, sinusitis, and airway problems in those who have asthma or COPD. Currently, there is no proven treatment of the common cold. This is partially because over 200 different kinds of viruses can cause a cold and they are very hard to treat. While going into the walk in for an antibiotic may be a simple suggestion, it is important to note an antibiotic will not treat viral colds. Sometimes it is difficult to know if the cold symptoms are being caused by a bacteria or a virus. This difficulty in treating colds is what leads people to try over the counter natural products such as zinc, echinacea, vitamins or Cold FX.

Zinc is one of the essential minerals and it found in the vitamins and minerals area of the pharmacy. Studies completed in the past have shown people treated with zinc had fewer days of coughing, headache and nasal congestion. A recent review of multiple clinical studies was just released on the role of zinc in common cold symptoms. The review concluded zinc, if given with the first 24 hours of onset, reduces the severity and duration of symptoms of a common cold. It showed school absences and antibiotic use was lower in the group which took zinc.

Echinacea has been used as a medication for thousands of years and is still widely popular to use for treatment of the common cold. However, recent studies have shown it is not highly effective in reducing symptoms or the duration of symptoms which accompany the common cold. Data suggests echinacea may work by assisting the immune system in preventing a common cold. With this is mind, try echinacea when symptoms first develop or even before they occur.

Vitamin C has been studied for the treatment in colds for over 60 years. Its effectiveness in the general population does not have a great amount of evidence. However studies with athletes and soldiers have turned out positive results in decreasing symptoms. This information gives us reason to believe Vitamin C can help in physically stressed individuals. Humans do not self-produce vitamin C and it is not stored in the body for extended periods of time, so it should be obtained regularly in a well-balanced diet or supplemented in the pill form.

Cold FX used to be a very popular product but its use has declined as the company that makes it was actually sued for making false health claims. It seems to have mixed reviews about its effectiveness. The main ingredient in COLD FX is panax or North American ginseng root.

In my opinion there is likely some effectiveness using the treatments I have discussed. If you are interested in trying a combination product the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy carries an orange flavoured lozenge containing Zinc and Vitamin C. We also carry a Jamison product which contains additional Echinacea along with the Zinc and Vitamin C. Aside from using medications it is important get proper amounts of sleep, keep well hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet. These healthy lifestyle modifications, will also prevent illness.

To say these products cure the common cold in all would be incorrect. They do appear to help your immune system battle the common cold if used at first symptoms. They should not be used in severe illness or if they interact with other medications. If you have a respiratory infection, they should not be used in place of antibiotics. Just because the product is said to be natural does not automatically mean it is safe for you. It may also not be safe for your children depending on their age. If you are looking to select a natural cold remedy or any cough and cold product speak to one of your Dauphin Clinic Pharmacists to make sure they are safe and effective for you.


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