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Common Sense Combats the Common Cold

Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist

The air is getting cooler. The smoke is curling from chimneys. That means cold season is upon us. But a little common sense can help combat the common cold.

Many of us would like an easy way to prevent a cold. But recent reviews of medical research show that there is no “magic bullet” – at least not in Echinacea, Vitamin C, or zinc.

Researchers at Hartford Hospital and University of Connecticut studied the results of 14 randomized controlled trials involving 1630 participants and found that taking Echinacea helped reduce the chances of catching a cold. But this contradicts the results of a large 2005 trial, which contradicts a 2000 study. So it’s not clear if Echinacea is effective in preventing colds.

Scientists at University of Helsinki in Finland and Australian National University looked at 24 trials involving 10,708 participants and found that Vitamin C had no effect on preventing a cold. With zinc, there is so little research that it is difficult to determine zinc’s effect on a cold.

Common sense still prevails. A cold is spread when pathogens from a carrier leave that person’s body and enter another’s through the mouth, nose, or eyes. Steps to help prevention include:


  • Sneeze or cough into a sleeve.
  • Keep hands away from mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Keep other objects that could be contaminated, such as pens, hair, necklace, keys, or clothing, out of the mouth.
  • Wash hands well and often. Use warm, running water and soap and scrub for 20 seconds – as long as it takes to sing the ABC’s. Sometime try timing your usual duration for scrubbing and see how well you meet the 20 second goal!
  • After washing hands, don’t touch dirty faucet handles or door knobs before eating.
  • Always wash hands before eating or even touching food, even if it’s just a little snack at your germ-laden desk!



Last Updated 05/05/2009







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