The Common Cold Advice

From Cold and Flu Experts from Everyday Health

Do those pills that claim to help you prevent colds really work? I travel a lot for my job, and in winter I seem to get one cold after another – every flight seems to make me start to sniffle. There are zinc pills, vitamin C pills, and those pills that are supposed to help you avoid colds in crowded places. Should I start taking them?

That’s a great question. There have been many products touted as being the cure for — or at least a line of defense against — the common cold. Vitamin C has been well researched and studies have convincingly documented its ineffectiveness for both preventing and treating colds. Other agents including zinc and echinacea have been tested and results are mixed; some studies show benefits while others do not.

My best advice is to use good hygienic practices, including washing your hands. Regular hand-washing can help protect you from other people’s germs — every handshake at your business meetings is a potential pathway for cold germs. If you do catch a cold, regularly wash your hands and be sure to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough to prevent others from sharing your misery. These are actually the best approaches to controlling the spread of the common cold.

Recent studies teach us that happy people catch fewer colds and that people with good social connections also have fewer colds. Eating healthily and exercising regularly can also prevent colds as they support the immune system. So laughing with friends and taking care of yourself will undoubtedly keep more colds away than taking large doses of vitamin C!