Home remedies for when you're sick: A doctor's do's and don'ts

Published:
Updated:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Doctor David Groen with Mount Carmel Health sees dozens of patients a day, people diagnosed with a cold, flu or strep throat.

While he can prescribe the right treatment, he also hears the remedies people try at home.

Like people who put vapor rub on the feet.

"You put vapor rub on the chest because there's a decongestant that gets into them as they're breathing. On the soles of the feet, that's been a rumor for about 11 years. It's just not one that dies because of social media," he explains.

What if someone you love makes you chicken noodle soup or hot tea? We've all heard those help make you feel better.

"You've heard about chicken soup for a while, it helps with the cold but it doesn't cure the cold. It's hydrating so we talk about taking fluids when you're not feeling good. Hot tea, hot soup, those vapors can help with decongestion," Dr. Groen says.

He added that a hot shower or a humidifier can also help with decongestion.

You may have also been told to gargle with salt water. Here's Dr. Groen's analysis:

"It can help a sore throat, if there's a bacteria back there it'll help kill it but it might make people throw up. I've tried salt water before, it's not my thing."

What about taking all those vitamins, from vitamin c to zinc?

"There's been some weak evidence that does help. Notice my wording "weak" evidence. If you want to take them you can, I don't. Taking 2,000 milligrams when you have a cold will not do anything for the cold," he says.

Dr. Groen says it doesn't hurt to take extra vitamins, that's up to each individual.

And remember when mom would scold you for walking outside with wet hair? According to Dr. Groen, that is A-Ok.

"Walking outside with wet hair, not wearing a coat none of those things make you sick. You have to have exposure to the viruses," he explains.

Dr. Groen says if you do get sick, do what makes you feel better just as long as it doesn't hurt you.

And if someone who loves you gives you some home remedies to try, he says, "Listen to mom but you don't always have to follow the advice."

Dr. Groen also says don't drink alcohol when you're sick, that'll only dehydrate you.

Whatever you do, do not diagnose yourself on the internet. You can get general information about your condition from the Mayo Clinic, Web MD or even the Cleveland Clinic website once you've been properly diagnosed by a doctor.