10 Cold and Flu Remedies That Have No Basis in Science

​We all know people who love to share "little known" cold and flu remedies on social media. Most of them claim to be amazing treatments that doctors don't want you to know about or simple cures you already have at home. For some reason, otherwise intelligent people believe these claims and continue to share them. 

It would be great if it were easy to cure the cold or flu but it's not. There is no huge conspiracy in the healthcare field that involves covering up of cures so you will stay sick. The widely shared treatments have no proven benefit and in some cases, can actually be harmful.

There's a reason we use science in medicine. We have to prove treatments work (on more than one person) before they can be marketed and provided to the public. If you don't understand the scientific method or health care research, that's okay. But don't base your medical decisions on things you read on the internet. Talk to your health care provider.  

1
Does the "Water Treatment" Work?

Dripping faucet
Does the water treatment work?. Getty Images

Wouldn't it be nice if drinking water at a certain time of day would heal your body and cure illness? Absolutely. But it will not. You need to drink water to stay alive and staying adequately hydrated is essential to good health. But drinking water at a specific time of day is not going to cure anything. 

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2
Home Remedies - Can Cinnamon and Honey Cure a Cold?

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Can Cinnamon and Honey Cure the Flu?. Juan Silva/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

The "cinnamon and honey" combo claims to cure many things - including colds, the flu and cancer. Wouldn't that be fantastic. Is it true? Nope. Not a shred of scientific evidence to support this one. And it originated in a supermarket tabloid. So there's that. 

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3
Will an Onion in the Room Stop a Cold or the Flu?

onion
Can an onion in the room absorb germs?. Image Source/Getty Images

I have seen this post circulating on social media many times. Apparently if you place a cut onion in a room with a sick person it will suck all of the germs out of the air (and the person) and they will recover. This practice started in the dark ages. We all know how healthy people were back then, right? This doesn't work. 

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4
Using Elderberry For the Cold and Flu

elderberry
Should you take elderberry for your cold?. Getty Images

​Elderberry doesn't fall under the "ridiculous" category because it is actually used in homeopathic remedies and does have benefits. Unfortunately, scientific studies have not shown any consistent benefit for cold or flu symptoms. 

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5
Echinacea and the Common Cold

Echinacea
Does echinacea help with colds?. Getty Images

Like elderberry, echinacea is used as an herbal supplement and homeopathic remedy. Studies on this plant have resulted in mixed findings. Because so many different parts of the plant can be used and different studies involve different combinations and amounts of the herb, it's not clear whether or not it is beneficial for cold or flu symptoms. More research needs to be done before we know if echinacea will help.

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6
Vitamin C and the Common Cold

Vitamin C
Vitamin C - what can it do for you?. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Vitamin C is probably the most widely used supplement to treat and prevent colds. You may even be surprised to see it on this list because you feel like it works for you. However, when we go back to what the science shows, the results are not clear. The risks of taking Vitamin C supplements are low - unless you have kidney disease - so trying it is unlikely to be harmful. But don't be surprised if it doesn't help either. 

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7
Do Essential Oils Work?

Essential Oils
How effective are essential oils?. Jessica Boone/The Image Bank/Getty Images

I am a mom and I have lots of mom friends on social media (and in real life) that use or sell essential oils. Their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years and I have seen all sorts of outrageous claims about their benefits. I am admittedly a skeptic but that is because there is no good science to prove that these oils have any benefit at all. Most are extremely expensive and if ingested, can cause serious harm. A majority of the companies that sell these products do not claim they will cure or help with illness but many of their "independent consultants" do make these claims. Make sure you know what you are spending your money on and understand that science does not prove these oils work. 

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8
Can I Use Rubbing Alcohol to Bring Down a Fever?

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Young boy with fever. Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Fevers are a common symptom when you have the flu and kids often run fevers when they have colds as well. Even though they aren't dangerous, many parents worry about fevers and want to do anything they can to bring the temperature down. 

An old remedy that has been suggested is using rubbing alcohol on the body. Please Don't Do This. It will not work and can cause alcohol poisoning. 

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9
Can Vicks Vapo Rub on the Feet Help With a Cough?

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Can Vicks on your feet help with cough?. Katrin Thomas/The Image Bank/Getty Images

As a pediatric nurse, I am asked frequently about using Vick's VapoRub on the feet to help with a cough. It's a popular remedy among parents of young children who are too little to take cough medicine. It's rumored that rubbing Vick's on baby's feet can stop a cough. However, there is no evidence that supports this and any accidental ingestion can be dangerous. 

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10
Can I Take Antibiotics for Flu?

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Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Antibiotics certainly have proven scientific benefit. They are used to treat and cure many infections and have improved our health tremendously since they were first discovered. So they aren't on this list because they are useless. They are included here because they are useless against colds and the flu. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, which means taking antibiotics to treat them will do nothing to treat your symptoms and only leads to antibiotic resistance

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