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How to Treat a Cold
by Robert S. Porter, MD, coeditor of The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy

I was an emergency room doctor for 18 years—12-hour shifts on my feet—and I never stayed home for a cold. When I catch one, I wait for it to go away. That's it. No fluids, no plenty of rest, no vitamin C, no echinacea, nothing. There's no scientific evidence that those things do anything. If a sore throat is really bad, I'll take lozenges that contain an anesthetic, like Chloraseptic; if it's not, I ignore it. If a runny nose is extreme—and I mean like a faucet—I'll take pseudoephedrine. People write articles about chicken soup. It's got a bit of salt, they say, and nutritional value. That's not unreasonable, because you need to get some energy into your system, and when you feel crappy you don't want a BLT and a milk shake. Also, chicken soup's comfort food, and that's important to people. But me? I don't do chicken soup. I wait a week and the cold's gone.


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