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The Single Best Treatment for the Common Cold

For the live-updated, interactive version of this infographic, click here.

If you have an after-Thanksgiving cold, this post is for you. When it comes to our old friend the common cold, it turns out that the simplest remedy may be the best.

At CureTogether, 139 people who have experienced the Common Cold have come together to share 1,079 data points about treatments they had tried and how well they worked or didn’t work.

So what is the single best, winning treatment that patients have reported? You guessed it: SLEEP.

To navigate the graph above, the top right quadrant shows the most popular and effective treatments, the top left quadrant shows treatments that not many people have tried but that have above-average effectiveness, so they may be options to think about (e.g. neti pot, Dayquil).

Treatments in the lower right quadrant are ones that lots of people have tried but that have below-average effectiveness (e.g. Vitamin C, orange juice), and treatments in the lower left quadrant are reported as neither popular nor effective, so you may want to steer clear (e.g. Airborne, whiskey).

Where did this data come from? CureTogether members have been anonymously sharing symptoms and treatments for over 2 years now. We analyzed and visualized the data into infographic form to make it more accessible. To thank everyone for their contributions, we’re releasing this result back to the community for free.

This is the tenth in a series of infographics we’ve been publishing over the past few months. Stay tuned for more and please let us know in the comments below if this was helpful or interesting for you – or write to me at alexandra@curetogether.com.

Please tweet, blog, or pass this along to anyone who can benefit or might have a cold. Thank you!


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5 Responses to “The Single Best Treatment for the Common Cold”

  1. Just want to pint out that “hand-washing” is a prevention, not cure. Of course once you have the cold or flu, washing your hands won’t help you feel better. But it might protect your sister’s newborn baby from your germs, which can be deadly to infants.

    So just because something is popular but “ineffective” in this graph, it doesn’t mean that we should stop wasting our time on it. We also need to remember that most people try more than one “cure” at a time, and that they are likely to remember using some “cures” more than others. So some of the effectiveness can be misattributed by recall bias.

    Each time we present data, any data, we have the responsibility to make sure it gets understood by our audience in the correct context.

  2. Hi Jin,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You make a great point – there are certainly limitations and biases that may affect these results. In future infographics that we release, we will make sure to list the limitations of the data, and provide further interpretation. We are also working on curating our data more to exclude things from studies that do not belong (like hand-washing as a treatment).

    Much appreciated – comments like yours help us to continually improve our research.

    Best,
    Alex

  3. [...] various common cold remedies: http://curetogether.com/common%2….See also their blog post on it: http://curetogether.com/blog/201…I wouldn't trust this as a result, though; the sample size was ~1000 data points/less than 200 [...]

  4. Seth Roberts Says:

    You might call the right-hand category “More Popular Than Helpful”. Although that might not fit in the box.

  5. Is any treatment for the common cold really necessary?…

    No. In 2010, citizen science group CureTogether ran a study on 139 cold patients who collected 1,079 data points about treatments they had tried and how well they worked or didn’t work. The single best treatment for common cold was sleep. http://cureto

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