People can typically treat their common cold symptoms at home. However, some cold treatments may not help, or they may make a person feel worse. These may include certain dietary supplements and hot toddies.

In this article, we will discuss some cold treatments that may make a person feel more unwell, treatments that may help relieve cold symptoms, and when a person should speak with a healthcare professional.

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An older review of research from 2016 indicates that there have been mixed and inconclusive results in studies investigating whether taking vitamin C has any effect on common cold symptoms.

The authors concluded that most people should consume vitamin C as part of their diet rather than by taking supplements. They also argued that further research into the effects of vitamin C on common colds is necessary.

If a person does want to try taking vitamin C supplements to see if it helps relieve their symptoms, they should speak with a healthcare professional first. This is because alongside research into vitamin C supplementation and common colds being inconclusive, taking too much vitamin C may actually make someone feel unwell.

If people consume an excessive amount of vitamin C, they may experience side effects including:

Learn more about what happens when someone takes too much vitamin C.

A 2021 review and meta-analysis indicated that taking zinc supplements shortly after a person develops a common cold may help a person recover more quickly. However, this is only by a small amount and is unlikely to significantly reduce symptoms.

The authors also concluded that further research into the effects of zinc supplementation on respiratory viruses is necessary.

While taking zinc supplements may have some minor positive effects on the common cold, research suggests that taking too much zinc can have adverse effects, including:

Zinc supplements may also interact with certain medications including antibiotics, penicillamine, and diuretics, reducing their effects. A person should speak with a doctor before taking any zinc supplements, especially if they are using any other dietary supplements or medications.

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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A hot toddy is a drink that a person makes with lemon, hot water, honey, and whiskey. Research suggests that honey may help improve symptoms of upper respiratory infections, like colds, and hot drinks containing honey and lemon juice may also help to relieve symptoms.

However, the whiskey element of a hot toddy is what could actually make a person with a common cold feel more sick. Drinking alcohol may weaken the immune system, making it harder for a person’s body to fight off infections.

Mixing different types of cold medications or taking them alongside other forms of prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications may be harmful in some cases.

Many of the OTC medications for colds contain decongestants, which can also act as stimulants, according to an older Harvard Medical School article.

If a person mixes different types of common cold medications or is taking prescription medications containing stimulants such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications, amplified stimulant effects can dangerously increase a person’s blood pressure or result in arrhythmias.

A person should speak with a doctor before taking any cold medications, particularly if they are already taking other medications or dietary supplements.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that people should stay at home when they have a common cold to help prevent its transmission to others. They also suggest:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • using OTC medications to ease their symptoms, if needed

If a person attempts to power through symptoms of a common cold and go to work or school as usual, they may spread the infection to others or take longer to recover from the illness.

There is currently no cure for common colds, a person’s symptoms typically get better on their own after a short period of time.

However, there are several medications and home remedies that may help to relieve symptoms. Some of these may include:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • getting plenty of rest
  • consuming honey
  • inhaling steam from a shower or bowl of hot water
  • using saline nasal sprays or drops
  • taking OTC medications with a healthcare professional’s guidance
  • using throat lozenges

If a person has been experiencing symptoms of a common cold for over 10 days without any signs of improvement, they should speak with a healthcare professional. A person should also contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:

Caregivers should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible if a child under 3 months old has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or more.

There are several treatments that may help to relieve common cold symptoms, such as drinking plenty of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and using OTC medications with a healthcare professional’s guidance.

However, other cold treatments may actually make a person feel sick. These may include taking certain dietary supplements in high quantities, drinking hot toddies containing alcohol, and combining cold medications.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional for further guidance about common cold treatments or if they are concerned about any symptoms they are experiencing.