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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Can home remedies really work?

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

Last week, Luanne Freund, director at Vintage Park Assisted Living Center, 2250 S. Elm St., shared her views on popular at-home cold remedies. What we learned was that most of those “cures” not only didn’t cure anything, but often made the situations worse.

This week, Freund discusses four more popular do-it-yourself remedies, including one that actually seems to make a positive difference.

Have you ever taken a handful of over-the-counter cold medicine and thought, “Wow, I feel so much better. I think I’ll go run a few errands?”

That could be a big mistake, Freund said.

“The antihistamines you take for a runny nose can cause acute drowsiness,” she said. “Older antihistamines like Benadryl, and the newer ones, like Claritin, can make you very sleepy, especially in a car on a sunny day. Drivers have actually been pulled over for erratic driving while on these medications, so be careful and let someone else run your errands.”

While on the subject of medications, Freund also said caution should be taken when mixing over-the-counter cold medicines with prescription drugs.

“This is especially true if you are on antidepressants or blood pressure medication. You should always read the labels carefully for any warnings or ask your doctor or pharmacist.”

During the past few years, Echinacea has become a popular choice to reduce the length of a cold, or help boost your immune system. It’s relatively inexpensive, and either chewable or water-soluble Echinacea is found in popular brands like Airborne and Emergen-C.

Freund said there’s little harm in taking such concoctions unless you have strong allergies to pollen and weeds.

“If you have allergies to plants, like ragweed, you could have a serious allergic reaction to Echinacea,” she said. “Also, some preparations may be contaminated with mold and other allergens so extreme caution is always recommended when using herbal supplements.”

So is there any at-home cure that actually helps cure a cold and doesn’t have the potential to make you sicker?

“Many generations have sworn by chicken soup as a cure-all treatment for any cold,” Freund said. “It appears to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help cold symptoms, and even if it doesn’t, the protein and warm liquid will help keep you hydrated.”

Freund cautioned against canned chicken soup, which might be loaded with extra sodium. She recommended trying low-salt brands or, better yet, cultivating a friendship with someone with a killer recipe and a willingness to cook for a sick friend.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at

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