Five home remedies for colds that actually work

New NHS guidance says patients should treat themselves with honey and home remedies before going to doctor

(Image credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

New guidance from UK health officials says patients should treat their coughs and colds with honey and home remedies before going to the doctor.

Guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is advising doctors not to offer antibiotics in most cases. Instead, they should encourage patients to use self-care products.

Antibiotics “make little difference to symptoms and can have side effects - and unnecessary prescriptions reduce their effectiveness”, says Sky News.

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Doctors are instead advising patients “to try honey or cough medicines containing pelargonium, guaifenesin or dextromethorphan, which have been shown to have some benefit for cough symptoms, before contacting their doctor”, the broadcaster adds.

Here are some home remedies you can try if you find yourself under the weather:

Lemon, honey and ginger

A hot drink with honey, and often with lemon and ginger as well, “is a well-known home remedy for coughs and a sore throat”, says the BBC.

But honey is not recommended for children under the age of one “because it occasionally contains bacteria that can cause infant botulism”, adds the broadcaster.

Salt water

One of the oldest but also most effective cures for a sore throat is to gargle warm salt water. "You’re creating a high-salt barrier and you’re pulling out a lot of fluids from the tissues in the throat area, so you’re washing the virus out,” Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, chief of the Dr James J. Rahal Jr Division of Infectious Disease at New York Hospital Queens tells WebMD.


It turns out that yoghurt is the best thing to eat for breakfast if you want to avoid catching the common cold, as yoghurts are probiotic foods. “The majority of our immune system is in our gut,” Dr Ashton Harper, tells Marie Claire magazine. “Probiotics have been shown to significantly reduce the severity of cold symptoms.”

Zinc lozenges

If you find yourself in the first throes of a sore throat and a runny nose, “zinc lozenges may help you get better, if you start taking them regularly within 24 hours of your first symptoms”, says Popular Science magazine. But it’s not clear “whether they actually help you fight off the virus or simply reduce inflammation in your throat”, the magazine adds.

Get enough sleep... and try an extra pillow

The sweet spot for an adult is between 7 and 8 hours a night and “if you’re not getting enough shut-eye your body just isn’t going to do as good of a job at fighting off infections”, says Popular Science.

“When you have a cold, sleep with an extra pillow, as this will help with the drainage of nasal passages,” Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers told Marie Claire.

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