The influenza epidemic, she has been in Germany. But not only are the dangerous influenza viruses on the way – also many viruses that can cause an influenza infection. Unlike the real flu, a flu-like infection is not dangerous – but the one caught is sometimes out of action for days. Many remedies are offered that are said to help with coughing, runny nose, hoarseness. How well they work, my colleague, the medical journalist Christina Sartori has taken a closer look.
Christian Floto: What really helps against coughing, runny nose, hoarseness?
Christina Sartori: There is no remedy for the cold viruses, but you can do something about the symptoms: For headaches and body ulcers you can take painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid which also helps with mild fever. And against the heavy nose that doesn't let you sleep, decongestant nasal sprays help a little.
However, you cannot take more than a week – otherwise the nasal mucosa is used for it, and if you then sell the spray, you have your nose really full – and again to the spray – a kind of addiction. So: No more than one week.
Floto: Can nasal sprays protect against colds?
Sartori: Nose and throat sprays contain certain substances to protect against viruses: The idea is that they cover the mucous membranes of the nose or throat so that viruses penetrate worse. But the independent journal "Good Pills, Bad Pills" has stated: There are hardly any studies on this issue, and in that case, the studies are mostly done poorly, with few participants for example. Or you can hardly see any difference in the effect on study participants who try the spray – and those who do not use it. So: it certainly doesn't work.
A cup of chamomile tea with lemons – Not a rescuer (imago stock & people / Blickwinkel McPhoto / Otfried Schreiter)
Floto: Zinc and Vitamin C as a cold remedy?
Sartori: From what you see in studies, it doesn't help if you realize: "Oh, it's a cold and then swallowing zinc or vitamin C tablets or powder. This doesn't affect the symptoms or the duration of the cold. Also for Echinacea, herbal active ingredient, there are no clear signs that it relieves or mitigates a cold.
Floto: And those cold saps that are always advertised in pharmacies?
Sartori: Experts have advised it for years: because they often contain very different active substances, some of which have a counteracting effect, which makes them drowsy and impulsive, for example – which is very unfavorable. So you can also save yourself.
Floto: What to do about the annoying cough?
Sartori: Cough syrup that suppresses the cough should not be taken normally – because the cough is actually meaningful because the body gets rid of excess mucus in the lungs. Plant-based mucolytic preparations, such as thyme and ivy, have small positive effects, but the data are also weak here as well.
An influenza can put you out of action (picture alliance / dpa / imageBROKER / Jochen Tack)
Floto: So then: Grandma's home: breathe in and drink tea, gallons?
Sartori: If you are accurate, then there are no good studies showing that cold inhalation or drinking tea gallons have a positive effect on a cold. But: Many say they feel better after inhalation, they can breathe more freely – so you can try it. Drinking tea is also a pleasant experience for many patients – but there is no medical reason why you should suddenly pour in several liters because you have to force yourself not to do anything.
Floto: Isn't there a single indefinite recommendation?
Sartori: Wash hands. Because our cold-blooded viruses enter our bodies through our hands and – without us realizing it – we often meet each other every day. Therefore, it is a good habit when you come home to wash your hands first.