Dr. Michel Cohen Debunks Cold Treatments

Here is a roundup of some common cold remedies and Dr. Cohen’s assessment of their effectiveness from his book, The New Basics:

  • Nose drops push the mucus down the throat but only temporarily; there’s much more where that came from. These drops are also unpleasant for a baby’s nose. An aspirator is even worse.
  • Propping up your child may harness the awesome power of gravity to drain mucus from her head. This effect is limited, however, by the fact that a propped-up baby will wiggle and slide down to the bottom of the crib sooner or later.
  • Humidifiers and vaporizers make you feel proactive. Hissing and misting, they purport to loosen up the mucus, but as you know, the thickness of the mucus isn’t really the problem . . . it’s the quantity. And no amount of humidity can affect that.
  • Decongestants, which are all similar in nature, are generally useless. In the best scenario, they dry out the secretions for an hour or two, but as soon as the effects wear off, the mucus returns with a vengeance. These medicines also have potentially dangerous side effects (and in fact were taken off the market for children younger than 4 due to cases of death). You may not mind a little drowsiness at night, but reverse effects are very common, and they could keep your child awake and restless all night.My advice? Stay away, no matter how enticing the copy on the packaging makes these drugs sound.
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help lower the fever, but since the fever is already low grade, there isn’t much to bring down. You could, however, use these to decrease your child’s overall discomfort.
  • Alternative treatments: I haven’t seen anything in the health food store that makes a difference in regard to the prevention or treatment of cold symptoms. That includes echinacea, one of the all-time homeopathic favorites, as well as vitamin C.