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Common cold treatment and prevention

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

Avoid disruptions caused by colds this winter.

Adults can have anywhere from 1 to 3 upper respiratory tract infections per year and children up to 11, depending on their age [1]. The respiratory system (from your mouth and nose to your lungs) is one of the main gateways of entry for pathogens, including viruses. It's estimated that we breathe in thousands of viruses a day! It's no wonder that viral respiratory tract infections are one of the most common human diseases [2]. Within the category of viral respiratory tract infections, is the common cold with 50% of cases caused by the rhinovirus [3]. Currently, the only treatments for colds are supportive but there are ways to reduce their frequency, severity and duration [4]. Complementary and natural therapies to fight respiratory viruses and enhance the immune system, have gained renewed interest [2]. Below are just a few tips and tricks, some backed by research and others by experience.


  1. No damp forming foods: According to Traditional Chinese medicine, damp forming foods can create excess mucus in the body. These include dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream), sugar and sweets, wheat, oats, bananas, fatty meats and fried or processed foods. Foods served cold or raw can also lead to dampness. Avoid these foods when you are on the verge of getting sick and throughout your cold.

  2. Eat according to the season. Winter is cold so your body needs warm foods. This means lots of soups and steamed vegetables when feasible.


  1. Herbs have a long history of use for the prevention of colds. One such herb is Echinacea, which can reduce the total number of colds [5]. Enquire further for safety, potential medication interactions and dosing.

  2. From experience, ginger tea can also be helpful. Grate some fresh ginger, add to a cup of hot water and enjoy! This can be consumed daily throughout the winter. You can pair this with lemon and a bit of honey for added taste.

SUPPLEMENTS: Research has shown that certain supplements can be beneficial for the common cold including probiotics, zinc and vitamin C [1] [4]. It’s important to choose the right one and dosage based on your medical history.

WET WARMING SOCKS: This unusual but effective treatment can be used at the first sign of a cold and it can be repeated for as many nights as necessary until you improve. It’s beneficial for decreasing congestion and for headaches.

  1. Materials: 1 pair of thin socks and 1 pair of thick wool socks

  2. See video above for further instructions

STEAM INHALATION: Viruses prefer cold temperatures so discourage them with steaming. This can be done at the first sign of symptoms such as a sore throat or congestion. Put boiling water in a large bowl, add in a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil and put your face over the bowl and cover with a towel. Safety tips: Do not do this over a stovetop, slowly test out the boiling water to make sure it is not too hot and only add 3 drops of essential oil as it can be potent when inhaled.


  1. Passioti, M. et al. 2014. The Common Cold: Potential for Future Prevention or Cure. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. 14:413.

  2. Papadopoulos, N.G. et al. 2017. Promising approaches for the treatment and prevention of viral respiratory illnesses. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 140:921-932.

  3. Turner, R.B. 2007. Rhinovirus: More than Just a Common Cold Virus. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 195:765-766.

  4. Mousa, H.A. 2017. Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 22:166-174.

  5. Jawad, M. e. al. 2012. Safety and efficacy profile of echinacea purpurea to prevent common cold episodes: a randomized, double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. doi: 10.1155/2012/841315


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