It’s definitely the middle of winter season already, and my clinic’s waiting room is filled with sniffly, sneezing patients. Since there’s no magic bullet to cure the common cold, what natural methods help? I’ve mentioned a lot of preventive medicines on my blog, especially my new favorite, vitamin D. But there may be an even simpler way to cut down on getting the common cold — gargling! Yes, it seems that those of you who gargle regularly do indeed get colds less often. Thanks go to the always excellent “Really?” health blog at the New York Times, which just discussed the best literature on this. They quote from the randomized study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005, where researchers studied 400 healthy volunteers and followed them for 60 days during cold and flu season:
Some of the subjects were told to gargle three times a day. At the end of the study period, the group that regularly gargled had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compared with the control group, and when they did get sick, “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms,” the researchers wrote.
Interesting, no? One strange finding of the study is that the pure water gargling group actually did the best, even better than the povodine-iodine gargling group. But I still think it makes more sense to gargle with salt water, or one of the Listerine-type mouth washes. Why salt water and not just pure water? Here’s a bit from the article:
…gargling with salt water seems to help for several reasons. A saline solution can draw excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat, making them hurt less, said Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies,” which is due out in October. Dr. Hagen pointed out that gargling also loosens thick mucus, which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat…
So let’s all try an experiment this winter; try to gargle at least once a day, or even three times (waking up, after lunch and bedtime) and let’s all check in during next spring and see how your winter went!
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