PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Cold season is in full swing, and many people turn to so-called “natural” remedies to try to prevent colds or ease symptoms.

Consumer Reports reviewed studies on zinc and found that while it can shorten the duration of a cold slightly, it does nothing for the severity of the symptoms. Also, there can be side effects, including nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

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Over the long term, too much zinc may increase your risk for prostate cancer and neurological problems.

Then, there’s the myth that massive doses of Vitamin C can alleviate or even prevent a cold. Not true, says Consumer Reports. And too much Vitamin C can lead to digestive problems or in some cases, kidney stones.

So, to alleviate cold symptoms, should you pick up an over-the-counter medicine from the drugstore?

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Again, Consumer Reports urges caution, especially with multi-symptom products. You could well be getting dosed for symptoms you don’t even have.

Consumer Reports says it’s best to take over-the-counter medicines with single ingredients: Choose ibuprofen or acetaminophen for aches and fever, a decongestant for nasal congestion, or a cough suppressant to quiet a cough.

In any case, colds usually run their course in a week to ten days, and you can also get through it by resting and drinking plenty of liquids.

Another caution for children: Those under four should never be given over-the-counter cough and cold products, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If you have children age four and older, there are some over-the-counter medicines they can take safely. But, Consumer Reports cautions you to consult with a doctor first.

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