Excerpt: 'Mayo Clinic's Book of Home Remedies'

Photo: Excerpt: Mayo Clinics Book of Home Remedies: Cure the Common Cold With Chicken Soup Instead of MedicinePlayCourtesy Time Home Entertainment Inc.
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The Mayo Clinic is the largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. It recently was named one of the top hospitals of 2010 by US News & World Report.

Mayo Clinic doctors from every specialty work together to care for patients, united by one philosophy: "The needs of the patient come first."

Now, the Mayo Clinic has released a book designed to keep you out of the hospital.

"The Mayo Clinic's Book of Home Remedies" shows you how to treat illness and injury on your own until you are able to see your doctor. This book can help you nip an illness in the bud, keep your condition from getting worse and avoid costly medical bills. It also tells you when it's time to put down the chicken soup, and get to the office of a medical professional.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.


The idea for Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies came from many discussions with Mayo Clinic physicians, nurses, health educators and other health care providers about the questions and concerns they hear most frequently from visitors to Mayo. In other words, what are the main reasons why people go to a doctor?

Our goal was to develop a simple resource that could guide your health decisions, Offer easy remedies to treat many of your problems and possibly reduce the need for a visit to a clinic or emergency room. The result is a book filled with reliable, practical information on more than 120 of the most common medical conditions and issues related to good health.

Today, greater responsibility has been placed on each of us to stay healthy and prevent illness. This has been triggered, in no small part, by the rising costs of health care and by growing concern over public health issues as diverse as obesity, diabetes, influenza and food safety.

Of course, things happen that you may have little control over - even after taking precautions, you may still catch colds, sprain ankles, have allergic reactions or develop high blood pressure. But Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies can show you how to minimize your risks of disease and injury and - in the event that something should happen - take necessary steps that help treat the condition until it's resolved or until you're able to see your doctor. It can help you detect illness before it becomes a serious and costly problem. Of course, this book is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, and lets you know when you need to see a medical professional.

How this book is organized

Considering the broad spectrum of health issues included in Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies, we feel that the easiest way for you to access the information is by arranging topics alphabetically. Each topic is introduced in a summary that may include signs and symptoms, causes, and possible outcomes.

Accompanying each topic is a "Home Remedies" segment that describes simple actions you can take to help prevent, treat or manage the condition, whether it's straightforward advice on diet and exercise, or a change in behavior, or a supplement to help relieve signs and symptoms.

The "Medical Help" segment with each topic identifies serious signs and symptoms and advises you on when to contact a doctor or other health care provider and what kind of treatment you might expect.

At the back of the book is an Emergency Care section that provides quick referral to information you'll need in the event of an emergency, be it stroke, heart attack, poisoning or bone fracture. Your decisive action during an emergency can be the difference between life and death.

Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies is based on the premise that there are many things you can do at home to stay healthy, relieve symptoms, improve emotional health, feel invigorated and enjoy a higher quality of life. It's our sincere hope that this book provides you with an important resource in achieving this complete approach) to good health.

Home Remedies for the Common Cold

You may not cure the common cold but you can make yourself more comfortable with these tips:

Drink lots of fluids

Water, juice and tea are all good choices. They help replace fluids lost during mucus production or fever. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration, and cigarette smoke, which can aggravate your symptoms.

Try Chicken Soup

Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children, and scientists have found that it does seem to help relieve symptoms in two ways. First, it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce mucus production in your respiratory tract. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time that viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.

Get some rest

If possible, stay home from work if you have a fever or bad cough, or are drowsy from medications. Rest is important to speeding recovery.

Adjust the room's humidity

If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease sinus congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean and regularly change the filter to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.

Soothe your throat

Gargling with warm salt water several times a day or drinking warm lemon water mixed with honey may help soothe your sore throat and relieve the coughing spells.

Use saline nasal drops

Saline drops are effective, safe and non-irritating - even for children - for the relief of nasal congestion. The drops can be purchased over-the-counter in most drugstores. To use in babies, put several drops into a Nostril, then immediately bulb suction that nostril.

Try andrographis

There is some evidence this Indian herb can reduce the severity and duration of upper respiratory infections. It may also reduce your risk of getting a cold. The herb seems safe when used short-term.

Try echinacea

While no studies have shown that this herb can prevent a cold, there is some evidence that it can modestly relieve cold symptoms or shorten the duration of a cold. Echinacea seems most effective when taken soon after cold symptoms appear.

Get your vitamin C

Despite popular belief, there's no evidence that taking large doses of vitamin C reduces your risk of a cold. However, there's evidence that high doses of vitamin C ? up to 6 grams a day - may have a small effect in reducing the duration of cold symptoms.

Consider zinc

There's some evidence that zinc lozenges taken at the beginning of a cold may help reduce symptoms. The claim that zinc nasal sprays are helpful is controversial. In general, the use of these sprays is discouraged because many people have experienced permanent loss of smell following use.

*Medical Help Most people recover from a common cold in about a week or two. If symptoms don't improve, see your doctor.

The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract - your nose and throat. A common cold is usually harmless, although it may not feel that way. If it's not a runny nose, sore throat and cough, it's watery eyes, sneezing and congestion - or maybe all of the above.

Most adults likely experience a cold two to four times a year. Children, especially preschoolers, may get a cold as many as six to 10 times annually.

Don't waste your money

Over-the-counter cold preparations won't cure a common cold or make it go away any sooner. Here's what's known about common cold remedies:

Pain relievers. Products such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) may relieve fever, sore throat and headache. Overuse of these products can cause side effects. Be careful when giving acetaminophen to children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing. For instance, the infant-drop formulation is much more concentrated than is the syrup commonly used in older children. Don't give aspirin to children. It has been associated with Reye's syndrome - a rare but potentially fatal illness.

Decongestant nasal sprays. Adults shouldn't use decongestant drops or sprays for more than three days because prolonged use can cause chronic inflammation of the mucous membranes. And children shouldn't use decongestant drops or sprays at all. There's little evidence that they work in young children, and may cause side effects.

Cough syrups. The American College of Chest Physicians strongly discourages the use of cough syrups because they don't effectively treat the underlying cause of cough due to colds. Some syrups contain ingredients that may alleviate coughing, but the amounts are too small to do much good and may actually be harmful for children. The college recommends against using over-the-counter cough syrups or cold medicines for anyone younger than age 14. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends against giving nonprescription cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 2.

Is it a cold or the flu?

Cold: Runny nose, sneezing, chest congestion, sore throat (usually scratchy), cough, no fever or low fever, mild fatigue

Flu (influenza): Runny nose, sore throat and headache, cough, fever (usually over 101 F), chills, moderate to severe fatigue and weakness, achy muscles and joints