What advice should you believe and what's a myth when it comes to the common cold? Here's the scoop:
Eat soup to get well soon: True!
There's no cure for a cold but lab research suggests that slurping a bowl of chicken soup may block inflammation that triggers coughs.
Zinc lozenges shorten a cold: True!
If you can handle the metallic flavor, zinc acetate lozenges (80 mg/day, researchers suggest) may shorten your cold by three days when taken at the first sniffle. Skip products with citric acid, which blocks zinc's effect.
Honey calms a cough: Somewhat False
Honey isn't as effective as cough syrup, but researchers say it may be better than nothing. Plus, it's safer than OTC meds for kids under 4. But skip it for kids under 1, as it can cause infant botulism.
Dairy makes you more congested: False
Placebo-effect alert! Research shows that believing milk causes mucus may make it so—even when drinking soymilk. But another study found that milk drinkers with colds didn't have more congestion or cough. Likely, this myth stems from the fact that the fat from milk mixes with saliva and coagulates, producing a thick mouthfeel, which may be mistaken for mucus.
Also, much of the conventional wisdom about avoiding milk to lessen mucus comes from asthma or allergy—not cold—research, so this myth makes a pretty big leap. And even then, researchers suggest that only a specific subset of asthma patients may experience increased mucus from diary. (In fact, some research suggests fermented dairy may even alleviate nasal allergy symptoms.)