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The nurse’s favorite over-the-counter cold and flu remedies


You may have heard the saying “An untreated cold lasts a week, a treated one lasts seven days.” And while this is very likely true, treating a cold may make the difference between being able to function and wanting to curl up and hide away from the world.

Although we know that you can’t treat the actual cold or influenza, trying to prevent it or at least treat the symptoms is the goal of many over-the-counter products, from medications to homeopathic products. Scrubs magazine asked three of its nurse bloggers—Sean Dent, Male Nurse blog; Ani Burr, Student Nurse blog; and Nicole Lehr, New Nurse blog—what they thought of various products. Here are their answers!

Supplements and homeopathic remedies

Supplements to help prevent the cold/flu or reduce their severity are becoming increasingly popular.

Airborne is a popular dietary supplement conceived to boost your immunity. Ani loves Airborne: “This is my favorite for fighting the flu. I take it whenever I start to feel wonky and after getting home from work on those extra-tough or extra-infectious days.”

Cold-EEZE also claims to shorten the time span of a cold. “I always go for the homeopathic approach to cold-fighting. Those lozenges always make me feel like I’m feeling better,” Sean says. “I think fighting a cold and boosting your immune system involve a combination of factors, one being that you think you are fighting it and have a positive attitude about it.”

Ani has a warning, though: “Don’t fall asleep with [a lozenge] in your mouth. Aside from [being] a choking hazard, it coats your mouth with an odd taste and raw feeling that you just can’t get rid of. Sort of making everything you eat or drink taste like zinc.”

Neti pots are used to irrigate your nose and sinuses without medication and are very popular among some people, not so much with others. Nicole says, “It’s supposed to be a terrific decongestant and mucous/snot breaker-upper.”

Naked Juices (and other drinks with antioxidants) are marketed as natural sources of vitamins with high levels of antioxidants. Ani says, “I love Naked’s Green Machine (looks horrible, tastes fantastic), but it’s never helped me fight a cold.” Nicole, on the other hand, feels that such drinks are helpful. “I firmly believe that any chance you get to boost your immunity when your white blood cells are in overdrive is beneficial,” she says. “And they will keep you hydrated in the process, another plus.”

Nicole mentions Emergen-C health and energy booster in this group of cold/flu fighters, but in her opinion, it’s not just for fighting colds. “I’ve always considered those who take Emergen-C to be long-term takers, as a sort of dietary supplement as opposed to just taking it when you feel a cold coming on,” she says. “But looking at the ingredients as packed full of vitamin C, you can’t really go wrong with it.”

Echinacea, an herb, seems to be effective for some people in fighting colds and flus. Some people swear by it, others don’t find it helpful. Nicole is in the pro-echinacea group. “[Echinacea] is an herb that is used holistically as a treatment for symptoms of the cold and flu virus,” she says. “Basically, the cavemen found it when they chewed on roots, and we swear by it.”

Medications –>

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Marijke Durning

Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.

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4 Responses to The nurse’s favorite over-the-counter cold and flu remedies

  1. Susan R.N.

    I don’t care if it completely washes the cold away, there is NO way I could use a “pot” of anything to pour into my nostrils. I am gagging just thinking about it…..Could someone pass the Puffs please? 😉

  2. Jeanie

    Bacitracin in your nares.

  3. tara

    I thought the warm salt water was for the beginings of strep throat!

  4. kidapa

    Use the netti bottle I am a scuba diver and it feels like when u r in salt water ocean and water gets in your nose… Uncomfortable for a moment but well worth the cleansing of sinuses!! The “pot” I’d difficult to use, get the bottle and squirt up one nostril. It doesn’t hurt to try… Well worth the benefits!