Katie Couric's Notebook: Spring Colds

Spring is in the air - but so are the germs. And a sunny day just makes it all the more painful to be stuck inside with a cold.

But before you hit the medicine cabinet, consider this:

Americans spent $3.6 billion dollars on over-the-counter cold remedies last year. And many of them don't even work.

A broad study of cough medicine found its effectiveness was iffy at best. And popular cures like zinc, echinacea and Airborne may be more hot air than science.

What does work? According to the New York Times: A painkiller for aches and fevers, a steamy shower to unclog your nose, and -- yes -- chicken soup.

Other remedies have a placebo effect, which actually help one third of patients. But there's also a "nocebo effect" -- if you expect to be sick, you're more likely to stay that way.

So if you're weathering a spring-time cold, skip the pricey pills and start with OJ... PLUS a healthy dose of optimism. A little self-medicating placebo goes a long way.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.