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Does Chicken Soup Really Cure the Common Cold? A Tenderfoot Father Investigates

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Editor's Note: This is not how my one-year old takes her chicken noodle soup.

My wife and I have learned quite a bit from the stack of parenting books piled high next to our bed. However, for the all the useful information we've found crammed into each page, one thing they fail to cover is how to handle the personal agony that comes with caring for a sick child that can't communicate what's wrong.

See, our one-year old daughter is in daycare, which is essentially 21st century American slang for "festering petri dish of infant maladies." Maybe it's all in my head, but it sure seems like she's had a runny nose for the last nine months. It can get a little gross, but with strategically placed Boogie Wipes throughout our home, keeping her steady stream of goobers under control has become a manageable task.

Since she started daycare, the worst days are the ones when she comes home coughing. She's a pretty resilient lass, so the coughing doesn't seem to faze her all that much, but it turns my wife and I into neurotic goons. A mild cough doesn't warrant a trip to the doctor, but we drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out how to alleviate her cough and make her as comfortable as possible while we wait for the metaphorical storm to pass. It makes us so crazy, in fact, that we've found ourselves willing to take an old wives' tale like the healing powers of chicken soup over the common cold for a test drive.

Fortunately for us, Mike had just whipped up a fresh batch of his chicken soup that we could heat up for our daughter at home, so naturally we picked up a quart. Once we heated up the soup and cut up the noodles, chicken and veggies into manageable bites and paced them in front of her, she dove in like a total savage. (Side: Meal time at our home is a combination of eating and Modern Art 101.) As she jammed carrots into her mouth and delivered devastating stiff arms that sent noodles flying to the floor, it sure seemed like our little Jackson Pollock was doing better. And as I've recently learned, her recovery may not have been entirely in our heads.

A 2000 study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that chicken soup aided in the reduction of upper-respiratory inflammation. (You can learn more about the findings of the study here.) Stephen Rennard, M.D, observed that patients who ate chicken soup (prepared according to his grandmother's recipe) displayed "very modest but clearly measurable" ability to reduce inflammation. The study failed to pinpoint the active ingredient responsible for the affects, but Rennard observed, "If you're feeling ill, it's good to have somebody take care of you. That's actually not a placebo. The fact that someone's making a fuss over you when you are feeling badly is real support. There's biological proof in that." It's certainly not the most scientific argument I've ever come across, but it's difficult to argue with Rennard's logic. Turns out there may be something to this ancient old wives tale after all.

Shortly after an artistic and satisfying dinner we gave our daughter a bath, read her some Dr. Seuss, and laid her down in her crib. Within minutes she let out a few coughs, much to our chagrin. They weren't horrible, but it was definitely enough to make us wince as we listened to and watched her snuggle with her stuffed puppy dog on the baby monitor. But for at least a few minutes, while she feasted on bits of chicken soup, she sure seemed like she was on the path to recovery. It definitely made my wife and I feel better about our daughter's health, and on another level, our usefulness as parents. So until modern medicine gets its crap together and finds a legitimate cure for the common cold, Perrotti's Chicken Noodle Soup will have to be good enough.

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