How not to treat a cold

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Cold season is in full swing, and many people turn to so-called "natural" remedies to try to prevent colds or ease symptoms. (KFSN)

Cold season is in full swing, and many people turn to so-called "natural" remedies to try to prevent colds or ease symptoms. Consumer Reports reviewed studies on zinc and found that while it can shorten the duration of a cold slightly, it does nothing for the severity of the symptoms. And there can be side effects, including nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Over the long term, too much zinc may increase your risk for prostate cancer and neurological problems.

Then there's the myth that massive doses of Vitamin C can alleviate or even prevent a cold. Not true, says Consumer Reports. And too much Vitamin C can lead to digestive problems or in some cases kidney stones.

So to alleviate cold symptoms, should you pick up an over-the-counter medicine from the drugstore? Again, Consumer Reports urges caution, especially with multi-symptom products. You could well be getting dosed for symptoms you don't even have.

Consumer Reports says it's best to take over-the-counter medicines with single ingredients: Choose ibuprofen or acetaminophen for aches and fever, a decongestant for nasal congestion, or a cough suppressant to quiet a cough.

In any case, colds usually run their course in a week to 10 days, and you can also get through it by resting and drinking plenty of liquids.

Another caution for children: Those under 4 should never be given over-the-counter cough and cold products, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you have children age four and older, there are some over-the-counter medicines they can take safely. But Consumer Reports cautions you to consult with a doctor first.

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