With winter approaching, colds (re) are starting to become all too common. This summer, a TikTok video even went viral when it offered an original technique for dealing with a runny nose: putting garlic in your nose! One example among many others of so-called treatments or remedies. To set the record straight, we asked two experts to look at some of the most common colds beliefs.
Can I catch a cold by “catching a cold”?
It will not have escaped anyone’s notice that colds are more common in winter… Like other infections of the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat and trachea), they are normally caused by a virus.
There is, perhaps, an element of truth in the idea that being cold can favor the development of these microbes – and thus of a cold: the seasonal temperature changes can modify the lining of our throat. and our windpipe, which can eventually facilitate infection of local cells by viruses.
However, the main reason we catch more colds in winter is because we spend more time indoors, in confined spaces, in contact with other people – the perfect circumstances and environment to be transmitted. viruses.
Does putting garlic in your nose help?
It’s been a big trend on TikTok recently: sticking garlic cloves in your nose to supposedly benefit from their decongestant virtue … Placing something in your nostrils will actually block the natural flow of mucus, but when the obstacle is removed, the flow resumes drip… or with more vigor.
Curing a cold with garlic, TikTok’s bad idea (LeHuffPost / Youtube)
This temporary blockade is not a good idea: the mucus in fact not only helps to trap and eliminate pathogens, including viruses, but it also contains antibodies and can help reduce certain traits of viruses, such as their infectivity and their transmissibility. To be avoided, therefore.
Additionally, while garlic does contain certain anti-inflammatory compounds, it is also loaded with a whole host of elements that can irritate the skin, nose, eyes, etc. This could damage very sensitive local mucous membranes (and make congestion worse), lead to bleeding or even blockage. So it doesn’t really help and can even be dangerous. In general, sticking something in the nose is never a good solution.
Can herbal remedies have a preventive effect?
Various herbal remedies are believed to prevent or speed recovery from a common cold. Echinacea, a plant from the Asteraceae family that grows in North America, is often mentioned, for example.
Some trials have suggested a slight preventative effect, but large studies do not show a statistically significant reduction in disease levels.
Turmeric is also touted as a preventative drug, yet there is no strong evidence for its effectiveness either. Its potential antibiotic activities are still being studied, but antibiotics have no effect on viruses …
Can Vitamin C Help?
Nobel laureate in Chemistry Linus Pauling suggested in the 1970s that high-dose vitamin C could be an effective treatment for many viral infections.
If it doesn’t prevent colds, vitamin C helps get rid of them faster © AlexPankov / Shutterstock (via The Conversation)
But the Cochrane organization, where researchers are reviewing evidence, found that while vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds, it may shorten their duration in some people. Since vitamin C supplements (around 200 mg per day) are considered low risk, some suggest that this is a reasonable strategy to shorten the effects of a cold. Beware, however, of overdoses which bring no additional benefit.
Does vitamin D prevent colds?
Vitamin D has gone from being a “sunshine vitamin” associated with bone health to being a vitamin associated with reduced risk from heart disease, diabetes and viruses. We have been particularly interested in vitamin D to help us fight against the flu and, more recently, Covid-19.
Laboratory experiments show that it plays an important role in supporting immunity, which is essential for fighting viruses. The problem could be that some people have insufficient vitamin D levels. The sun allows us to make our own vitamin D, but winter is not conducive to it.
A runny nose and reddened eyes are manifestations of the common cold © Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock (via The Conversation)
So it is likely to be a good idea to take vitamin D supplements, as advised by the UK government, during the winter, in order to get enough intake, which can help prevent colds.
And what about chicken broths?
Grandmother’s remedy par excellence, chicken broth is haloed with many benefits against colds. Like honey, it might have some benefit in managing symptoms … But it is unlikely to have any real impact in warding off infection.
Studies have been done on its effect on immune system cells, but the results are far from conclusive. Which doesn’t mean you have to forget the famous soup! The water contained in the broth promotes our hydration, which is often lacking when we have a cold. And like most hot drinks, it can also help relieve sore sinuses.
Unfortunately, therefore, there are no miracle cures for the common cold … Some suggestions can be helpful and usually are not harmful, such as taking enough vitamins C and D. But others are absolutely not worth trying and can be risky, like putting garlic in the nose. The best thing to do when we are victims of a runny nose and red eyes is to get rest, stay warm, and drink plenty to stay hydrated.
This analysis was written in English by Duane Mellor, research dietician at Aston Medical School, and James Brown, lecturer in biology and biomedical sciences (both at Aston University – England).
The original article was translated then published on the site of The Conversation.