What really works?

Here are our winter go-to remedies for feeling better. Expert Marc I. Leavey, M.D., a primary care physician at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Maryland, shares some tips to get you through the winter season! *

READER REMEDY
Sleeping with Vicks VapoRub on our feet, covered with socks.
DOC DIAGNOSIS
There’s no evidence that Vicks VapoRub on your feet can treat a cold. But if you enjoy the smell, go for it. One caveat: never use VapoRub on kids under age 1; in kids under 6, keep it to neck or chest only. Better yet, check first with your physician.

READER REMEDY
Drinking hot tea with honey.
DOC DIAGNOSIS
The honey and warmth soothe your throat, and the tea keeps you hydrated, which is key to helping the cold move up and out. So drink up!

READER REMEDY
Vitamin C and chicken soup
DOC DIAGNOSIS
Multiple studies have shown that vitamin C doesn’t have an effect on symptoms or duration. But chicken soup is the real deal. Research shows that it has an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to ease congestion and cut down the time you’re sick.

READER REMEDY
Sinus rinsing
DOC DIAGNOSIS
Using a Neti pot can treat nasal allergies and help relieve congestion by keeping the mucus moving. With a Neti pot, always use distilled, sterilized water or a commercially packaged sterile saline solution. Tap or bottled water might introduce germs you don’t want in your nose.

READER REMEDY
Hanging fresh-cut eucalyptus from the showerhead. The steam releases the natural oils, which loosen up congestion.)
DOC DIAGNOSIS
The eucalyptus/steam combo might make you feel like you’re less stuffed up, but it probably won’t shorten the length of the cold or lessen the severity of symptoms.

TRY THESE TOP 3 TIPS TO CURE YOUR COLD

1. WASH YOUR HANDS THE RIGHT WAY.
Sudsing up kills germs as well as removes the dirt under which they hide, so be sure to wash often, particularly after touching anything that’s been handled a lot, such as pens, doorknobs, remotes, phones. Doing it right means lathering for at least 20 seconds (almost as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”), and getting between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse thoroughly, and dry; germs stick to skin more easily when it’s wet.

–   Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can work in a pinch, but won’t remove the dirt as reliably as lathering with soap and water. Look for a sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol, and be sure to rub it all over your hands as if you were washing them.

2. WALK MORE
“A brisk daily walk is the single most powerful thing you can do to prevent illness,” says David C. Nieman, DrPH, director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman found that people who exercised five days a week for 20 minutes or more reduced the number of days they were sick by 43 percent.

–   What’s the power of exercise? When you get your heart rate up, cells that fight infection circulate through your blood, and stay active for about three hours afterward. “Anything that gets your heart pumping and your lungs working activates those immune cells,” Nieman says.

3. TAKE a 10-MINUTE BREATHER
When you feel constantly anxious, levels of stress hormone cortisol skyrocket, which can dampen your immune system, making it harder to fight off a virus. In fact, research has shown that people who are coping with lots of stress have double the risk of getting sick.

–   While you can’t control what stress comes your way, you can control your reaction to it, and that’s where the protection lies: one study shows that people who incorporate regular meditation into their lives (along with exercise) have a 40-50 percent reduction in respiratory infections.

*Portions reprinted from: Better Homes And Garden, January 2015, p. 110.