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"Do age-old remedies stop the sneezing?"

Calgary Herald

Source: Calgary Herald

Published: 17 Nov 2021

Category: Other

Rating: (2 stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

If you haven't caught a cold already, the chances are that before long you will be sniffling and wheezing your way through one. In fact, with more than 200 cold viruses hovering in the air, each of us is likely to catch two or three this winter.

Building the body's defences by stoking up the immune system with disease-fighting nutrients is said to help relieve a runny or blocked nose. But do the old wives' tales we hear really make any difference?

Hot Toddy, Anyone?

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 4 of 10
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Not Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Not Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of harms of treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Do hot toddies, garlic cloves, Vitamin C, echinacea or chicken soup help you get over your cold? These are important questions as a whole variety of these kinds of folk remedies are routinely being used to try to beat colds.

While this article discusses, very briefly, the effectiveness of these remedies, unfortunately there is no reference to the quality of evidence, or details of benefit/harms related to those treatments or to the costs of them.

Also, the report covers so many treatments there isn't sufficient detail to describe the evidence upon which a health claim is made. For example, one treatment which has been well researched, vitamin C, is described this way: "the vitamin doesn't prevent a cold in most people, but may cut its duration by half a day in adults and up to a day in children." What we don't learn is what the typical length of the cold is, how much vitamin C you need to take and so on.

Even the study on Echinacea, published in the New England Journal of Medicine which showed little effect could have been better described with reference, not to a single study, but to a meta-analysis.

Additionally, in the example on feeding a cold and starving a fever, we do not know on what evidence the nutritionist is making her recommendation, and there is no quantitative information with which to assess the Dutch study as to why we should eat less when we have a cold.

For articles like this, journalists would benefit from seeing how health claims square against a quality source of systematic reviews, or meta-analyses of health treatments. One of the best sources for this kind of review is the Cochrane Collaboration, at

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