Shortening Your Cold

The delicate operation of catching a cold on a photo. Via Wikimedia.

The holidays can bring joy to individuals. Unfortunately joy is not the only thing brought into your home on the holidays: getting together with family and friends is also a big part of spreading the cold virus. The common cold is actually a variety of self-limiting viral infections. The most common type is the rhinovirus. Rhinoviruses always exist in the environment and you can get them any time of year. In winter, several factors promote the spread of the common cold. In particular, people are mostly indoors, in dry air environments, and we tend to spend a lot of time in groups, such as children in school, parties, and holiday shopping. All of these factors tend to promote the spread of the common cold. For a variety of reasons there is no cure for the common cold. The good news is that colds are self-limiting, and only with extreme rarity can they cause a complications that lead to more serious illness.

This poster is planned for use in doctors’ offices, clinics, other healthcare facilities, and media outlets, to raise awareness about appropriate antibiotic use for upper respiratory infections in adults. It explains that antibiotics are not the best answer for a cold or flu. Via Wikimedia.

A cold can make you feel miserable. It can also be persistent; the duration varies but is typically about seven to 10 days. A cold is really more of a group description than a specific disease. Realistically, it is a self-limiting upper respiratory viral infection with a low complication rate. Antibiotics do not help viral infections. Most anti-viral medications are organism specific and often they have too many complications to be worthwhile as a cold treatment.

The only effective medications for the common cold are symptomatic treatments such as decongestants and cough suppressants. They also carry some risks and their effectiveness varies greatly. For the most part you have to wait out a cold and give your body’s defenses their best chance to defeat the invading organism. It’s well known that such viral infections need hydration and rest, but are there other less conventional options for treating the common cold?

Vitamin C shots. Via Wikimedia.

For years, vitamin C laid claim to the title of Cold Shortener. Despite mountains of research showing it has no effect on colds, people still believe that it does. In the last 10-15 years there is a new challenger to supremacy of the vitamin C attributed cold benefit. That challenger is zinc, specifically zinc gluconate, usually found on pharmacy shelves as lozenges. (Some brands use the similar supplement zinc acetate.)

The chemical structure of zinc gluconate. Via Wikimedia.

This time of year you see a big upswing in useless, crank treatments for the common cold. Some promise prevention, like the disproved supplement Airborne. This year I have noted that the zinc gluconate lozenge is heavily advertised. A few years ago a similar zinc product, called Zicam, was litigated and settled hundreds of lawsuits. Zicam, a nasal inhaler, introduced zinc directly into the nose and seemed to damage some users’ sense of smell. This product did not work and harmed people, yet it can still be found on the shelves at local pharmacies and supermarkets. Zinc gluconate lozenges use the same basic premise as the nasal product, though it does not seem to pose the same risks, as far as we know. It is still a generally untested product. There are many versions—some are sold generically by supplement manufacturers, some are custom formulations, some are from drug store chains like CVS. Some even have trade names, such as Cold-EEZE®. Incidentally, Cold-EEZE’s CEO “guarantees” that his product will satisfy you, making you “feel better faster.” Let’s take a skeptical look at this claim, another in the long line of supposedly “miraculous” cold remedies.

Frankly, the evidence doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The evidence for the lozenge comes from small-scale, uncontrolled, subjective, heterogeneous preliminary studies. Any time the controls improved, the benefits returned to the level of statistical noise. This means that the effect is so tiny that it is no better than random chance.

The oft-mentioned “best evidence” comes from two papers: a 1996 study from The Annals of Internal Medicine, and a 1992 study in The Journal of International Medical Research. These are, in fact, two small-scale studies, with less than 100 subjects enrolled. The subjects were asked to keep symptom diaries. The problems with that specific method are planetary sized: personal diaries are notoriously underwhelming since they depend upon personal diligence. People often will do them sporadically, not regularly. They tend to fill them out only when encouraged to do so and tend to do them from memory, which is unreliable in the extreme. Since the point of this research is to track improvement along a timeline results from this type of methodology are poorly evidenced. Even if you assume that they had 100 obsessive-compulsive enrollees who maintained diligent, time-appropriate diaries, it is still too small to draw conclusions. 50 study participants and 50 controls is just too small a number. There are too many confounding variables with a sample size that small—far too many to be covered by that small group. Age, sleep patterns, employment, sexual activity, chronic medical problems, and medications are just a few that would be difficult to control for with so few participants. One study was done on hospital employees, yet there was no testing to confirm whether each subject’s infection was viral or bacterial, and no exam to eliminate allergy-caused symptomatically, and no lab work supporting a viral infection. Bottom line: these studies are interesting, but they’re preliminary. They might inspire further research. Similar to almost all sections of alternative medicine they have been treated as determinate research proving the benefit—a common alt med failure.

In 2013, a meta-analysis, “Zinc for the Common Cold” was published in the Cochrane Review. It supported using the lozenge. Meta-analysis is a systematic review of available research. When done well it speaks volumes about the effectiveness of a treatment. This meta-analysis showed benefit from zinc for the common cold. Unfortunately, it was so poorly done—with obvious fabrication and data re-tuning—that it had to be withdrawn from publication in 2014. Obviously, having to fabricate a positive meta-analysis rather than being able to produce one speaks volumes about the overall findings on the subject.

In my opinion there is no evidence that sucking on a zinc gluconate lozenge will be of any help for your cold. There are some very real concerns that it may have a deleterious effect on your sense of smell. The lozenges have been known to cause nausea and can cause changes to taste sensation. It is advertised as homeopathic and it is not because it has an actual active ingredient. Truth be told, the best evidence says it is useless, and sucking on a sugar-free cough drop is almost certainly just as safe and just as effective.

You are an individual, a custom build. On any given day your body’s biochemical environment is equally customized. And because we’re all aging, every moment in time is unique to your body. There is no set timeframe for you to recover from any illness. Recovery is an estimate. If you start making medical choices for a disease based on personal experiences and your recollection of prior events you are going to make bad choices. If you have a cold, save your money, get your rest—and get checked out by a doctor if you think it is more serious. Don’t take useless, over-the-counter nonsense. It won’t make you feel better and, as in the case of Zicam, it may be harmful.

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Disclaimer: This post is my personal opinion, it is not a substitute for medical care. It is for informational purposes only. The information on Skeptoid blog is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. This post does not reflect the opinion of my partners, professional affiliates, or academic affiliations. I have no financial conflicts of interest to disclose.

About Stephen Propatier

Stephen Propatier is a board certified acute care nurse practitioner specializing in spine and sports medicine. He is a member of the Society for Science Based Medicine.
This entry was posted in Alternative Medicine, Consumer Ripoffs, Health, Pseudoscience and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to Shortening Your Cold

  1. Karolyn says:

    Why not write something about how not to catch a cold in the first place? With a strong immune system, you won’t get sick. I have not had a cold in years and attribute it to my D3 and C intake. My diet is not as good as it could be; however, I eat little and consume as few additives as I can. I do have to say that the last couple of colds I did have hardly developed and only lasted a couple of days. That I attribute to Echinacea and Goldenseal. Laugh if you want; but it works for me. Prior to my regiment, I could count on at least one cold per year. I can’t even remember the last time I had a flu. And, BTW, I am 69 years old.

    • This is skeptoid not wishtoid . Flu is not a cold, Anecdote is not evidence, elevated immune systems actually cause massive problems IE: anaphylaxis. All those things absolutely do not work. I mentioned Vit C.
      Karolyn at least your consistent in your opinions across all subjects 🙂 I am not laughing just shaking my head.

      • mudguts says:

        Funny.. but prior to my retirement.. I got sick with the stuff my kids brought home from high school and my darling brought home from the hospital.

        Early in my retirement I did get knocked over by a doozy but since then.. I have had just a few cases of sunburn (to boast).

        Where is this leading.. well i got absorbed in placebo medicine and did nothing but enjoy myself gardening, fishing, surfing and cooking. I am waiting for a placebo to test against this.

        Yes.. I swallowed a lot of anecdote over the years.. But placebos do nothing is the best…. anecdote…

        I dont think my anecdotes could change in the retelling..

        • Not an anecdote. Placebo is by definition a substance that has no effect upon the subject compared to the variable. If you are using something that has an effect associated with the disease then it is a comparative study not a controlled study. So placebo cannot be an anecdote anymore than calling a rock a meal makes it nutritious.

          • mudguts says:

            I note the anecdotes from your commenters..

            Maybe if we put a placebo in a salter, set it alight and waived it around…

            Better than losing blood over one for precisely the same purpose..

          • David says:

            You say that a placebo is a substance that has no effect upon the subject compared to the variable. I think you must admit that in some trials placebos do produce positive results. You could say it had a psychological effect, but it still worked.

            In your article you mentioned that the zinc treatment was listed as homoeopathic. As you are well aware, homoeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extent that there is barely any of the active ingredient present.Therefore any deleterious effects cannot be attributed to the presence of zinc. Presumably the spray is not homoeopathic, and would therefore have a greater amount of zinc.

            You mention also that we are constantly changing as we get older, so everybody’s experience of illness and treatment is unique in every case. Placebos work for one, but may not work for another.

          • David Placebos do not work in a medical sense. People are extremely poor judges of effectiveness. It is a simplistic We heal we have compensatory mechanisms that are self regulated. Equating that a placebo works is just the type of correlational mistakes that well controlled studies try to avoid. Secondly I did not claim that zinc gluconate is homeopathic. Rather that some sites promote it as such. Placebo effectiveness is in itself a debate since we are asking a subjective response and chance dictates that some people will just get better. I agree with Dr. Mark Crislips’ position on placebo “I think that the placebo effect with pain is a mild example of cognitive behavioral therapy; the pain stays the same, it is the emotional response that is altered … Ain’t no such thing as a placebo effect, only a change in perception.”

          • Mudguts says:

            How about just recognising the term is unfortunately named. In reality a placebo in a trial is just a control that takes in all base factors that may not be taken account for. If people carrying out trials had just called them controls we wouldnt have this situation of people thinking a placebo is an “i will please” intervention.

            The way it should be viewed is, the placebo is a blank and does nothing in itself. The placebo “effect” is just another one of those “i dont know” bits we havent gotten out of the way in the testing regimes. That is.. its a testing regime where there isnt enough science.

            The fact that the alties can say “its as good as placebo” only means.. “well I have done absolutely nothing” .. and of course.. any anecdote will do .

    • Karolyn
      I am close to 50 haven’t have had the flu since my first flu shot 25 years ago, I worked for 15 years in a level one trauma ER with all types of infectious disease around me. I haven’t even had a simple cold in 10 years. I take no medications I have no health issues. I have normal blood pressure and cholesterol all major health markers nrmal. Admittedly I am an avid exerciser I cycle hundreds of miles a week or swim hundreds of laps a week. The only illness I have had in the last 20 years is lyme disease I contracted while on weekend in the woods of Connecticut. I haven’t taken a vitamin since Flintstones vitamins as a child. I take no supplements of any kind. I eat conventional food to purposefully avoid the high cost of organic food/products. I eat red meat occasionally, generally eat a low fat diet, and eat tons of conventional chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables. I eat processed foods of all kinds. Factually I probably drink gallons of aspartame sweetened beverages annually. I don’t avoid sugar, and my guilty pleasure is the occasional drakes devil dog.
      Why give you my medical history? It is to point out that I am just as healthy as someone can be at my age and I don’t do any of that nonsense you worry about following.
      Truth is my anecdote is just as useless as yours. Following those things because you believe that they make you better is no different than me claiming that aspartame keeps me well. It is just nonsense and unreliable.
      So which is it? Your eccinachea or my aspartame keeping us healthy? My devil dogs or your goldenseal? If you go by anecdote our storys carry equal weight. If you go by science(which I do) both are useless for avoiding colds. That is why we don’t use anecdote without evidence, and why we don’t dismiss evidence when it doesn’t follow our anecdotes.

      • Karolyn says:

        What would account for my medical previous to taking charge of my health? For many years I caught at least two colds a year and had laryngitis every year. I used to get the flu. Arthritis in my hands used to bother me terribly and no longer does. I used to get headaches a lot. Just looking at the changes I made in my habits, it makes sense that they have made me healthier, especially at my age – when most people start to go downhill. Anecdotal or not, it’s truth. I also do believe that “Your Mind is the Placebo.” (a book by Joe Dispenza) about how much our minds affect our health.

        • What accounts for my remarkable good health despite being in an contagious disease ridden environment, and doing the opposite of what you recommend?……..
          See, you are asking the wrong questions. Your a different individual now metabolically than you were five minutes ago never mind changes over time. Too many personal variables to answer your specific question as to why. Being complicated does not make your guess as to why, accurate. In reality medical treatment cannot be derived from personal experimentation and judgement.
          Does it work or doesn’t it? Science provides the only reliable method to judge. People are unique individuals, some people were naturally immune to small pox. That doesn’t mean the herbs they took or the diet they ate were superior. It means they had a genetic advantage or a previous exposure that was mild. Humans are not reliable judges of what makes us better. We conflate things, see patterns where there are none, and generally are a poor judge of results. We suffer from confirmation bias and narrow thinking. We discard information that does not conform to our preconceived ideas. That is why for thousands of years we really believed drilling holes in your head or blood letting or cathartics worked. It wasn’t until careful application of the scientific method with replication was applied to medicine that we developed any really effective treatments. Rejecting that and going back to trying a bunch of things willy nilly, self judging our effectiveness while rejecting good evidence because of personal belief doesn’t work. It was used for thousands of years and produced almost no useful treatments.
          Most unfortunately you quote a book selling a common belief that we can will ourselves better. This has been looked at in the case of terminal illness and it fails to hold up to scrutiny. Worse, that preconception generates much familial conflict.
          Conversely…Stress, insomnia, depression, has a direct deleterious effect upon recovery due to immune response and a multitude of hormonal effect. Improving those problems might be helpful For the most part, however the evidence says if you don’t have one of those deficits cogitative therapy has little effect. To use a analogy your car can have a gas tank less than full but it physically cannot have a tank more than full. That analogy may help illuminate why so called positive thinking not helpful.

          • Karolyn says:

            Have you read the book, Steven? It is not a matter of willing ourselves better. Too many think it’s just positive thinking. There is more to it than that. The author actually describes scientific reasons why it works.

        • mudguts says:

          Your mind is a placebo? Finally a control that we all would like to use!

          • Karolyn says:

            Read the book. I can’t tell if you’re being facetious or serious.

          • mudguts says:

            yep.. thats right.. everytime the woo writes a book we have to read it..

            A placebo is a control in a trial.

            If you want to argue otherwise, you should go on a woo site.

            If you dont understand why small trials throw up results that please woo artists and publish or perish trial junkies then you just cant get an approximation of a square root of a number between one and a hundred.

            Try it one day.. I assume you have ten phalanges left after all those years of shared (socially) disease with your friends.. We are prettty sick of hearing about your diseases after all these years on skeptoid comments.

            but then we dont move in circles where how you feel wrt disease and ill ease.

            Ill start with.. the square root of a hundred is ten.. where the mean = the variance (poisson) is a great binomial approximator, the square root of positive out comes in a trial should always swamp the variance of the controls for the trial..

            If it doesnt.. the result is purely by chance.

          • Karolyn says:

            Well, if your mind is not open enough to conceive that there are occurrences and outcomes science can’t explain, that’s just unfortunate. How do miracles happen? I may not be as educated as you, but I am intelligent, have an IQ of 138, and am open to all possibilities. The early scientists faced skepticism too. To call everything that hasn’t been scientifically proven “woo” seems to me to be a very limited view. Case in point (a real story): A man is extremely ill and is dying. Doctors can find no illness or reason for his wasting away. He only has little time to live. It is found out that a hex was placed on him by a witch doctor. The doctor tells him he was hexed with a snake that is living inside him and sucking his life away. The savvy doctor performs fake voodoo, whereupon he gives the man a drug to make him vomit and surreptitiously slips a small snake into the pan with the vomit. The man immediately falls asleep for 12 hours and wakes up voraciously hungry and feeling great, leading to total recovery. Similar stories abound, showing that the mind is much more important in both inducing and curing illness than most believe. What a wonderful fact! I have heard of more and more s scientists believing in the power of prayer.

          • mudguts says:

            yep.. the plea to ignorance.. Thank Karolyn. Keeping up true form instead of counting fingers.

            But as I said before .. there could be a reason for that even if you havent mentioned frost bite or bad chainsaw technique in your priors to sharing misfortune and disease with us.

            Its not that hard to analyse what people publish for the most.

            Look.. even the skeptoid bloggers give it a great bash and you keep telling them they are wrong. Notice the trend here?

            They got fingers and can guess a square root for a low number placebo trial outcome..

      • Manfred says:

        I am almost the same like you Stephen. But there are differences between you and me. I’m almost sixty and I don’t eat processed food ( I like cooking). I always tell my friends don’t take supplements eat veggies and fruit instead but the power of the advertising industry wins over my good words of advise.
        Keep going Stephen and stay healthy 🙂

    • onefeather says:

      Well said, the best way to stay healthy is to use herbs and drink herb teas and to eat right.
      And yes herbs do work but most doctors and the AMA will Not talk about it or tell you about it because they are not making money from it, they mask sickness with pills.

      • Noah Dillon says:

        Are you getting that information from people who are making money from herb teas? Every time I see a doctor they urge me to eat a balanced, healthy diet and not to smoke or drink. They don’t make any money off of that advice at all.

      • Onefeather
        Realistically, that statement is crap and I am offended by the implication that I make decisions based upon big pharma profits. I prescribe medicines all the time and I don’t get a nickle out of it. The days of drug company junkets and expensive vacations is over they are illegal. Doctors don’t make bank off of drugs unless they own stock. Yes researchers can make money off of their research but there not giving a dime to me when I write a prescription. I write a prescription because someone needs it. Not to feed some mythical big pharma. There is nothing in it for me personally. That is why television ads in the US target you, the patient, not me the provider. They want you to come to me and demand expensive new drugs. Which incidentally affects my bottom line by tying up my time reducing productivity explaining at length to patients why they don’t need new hot drug X. Providers make money by seeing patients not by writing prescriptions. So I can honestly say big pharma costs me money, I owe them nothing and wish they would outlaw drug ads on TV. The thought that it is in my financial interest to avoid herbs because they cost my bottom line is a lie. It would make me money to sell unregulated herbs in the office on my own. Doctors doing that are placing their financial interest over your health.

        • Karolyn
          In response to you advice to read a book and see the scientific reasons why you can will yourself better. I recommend that you read the research done about cancer treatment and positive thinking. It fails miserable to effect disease outcomes. If your publishing a book(trying to sell books I might add), that is telling people something that they want to hear, you are another in a long line of snake oil salesmen. Plus the conclusions of the book is opposite of scientific research you have good reason to be skeptical. If you have a good hypothesis and evidence you publish in journal not a amazon library. The public library is filled with that kind of self help-guru book.
          A common argument with this type of book is that you cannot defend my argument unless you read the book. That is a false premise.
          If you write a book claiming you can turn water into gold by pouring it into a box and concentrating on it. You don’t need to buy and read that book to know that it is false. What I wrote above about the subject of health and positive thinking is replicated and pretty rigorous. Again, improving your stress level and getting proper rest has benefit because it is a drag on your ability to deal with illness.Positive thinking and possible physiologic benefit…. to reiterate the analogy a full gas tank is full you can’t be more full 🙂

          • Karolyn says:

            Once again, Stephen, it is NOT just “positive thinking.” There’s a lot more to it and a lot of people who have benefited from changing their minds. Sure, it is not going to work with everyone because, let’s face it, most people do not want to invest the time and effort to effect change. They’d rather take the magic pill. I personally know people who have benefited from using meditation, faith, visualizing, affirmations, etc. to lose weight, heal themselves and change their lives. You can’t argue with success. I’ve read of scientific studies that have proven that prayer heals. How do you explain miracles?

          • Please tell me how meditation, faith, visualizing, and affirmations differ from positive thinking.

          • Karolyn says:

            They go much deeper. It’s more like positive “knowing.” I may have read a lot and used certain methods to improve my life; however, I am far from an expert and therefore really cannot find the words to esplain (especially to a diehard skeptic). Joe Dispenza healed his broken back; however it took a long time and a lot of dedication. Simple positive thinking certainly does have its own power but is not enough to heal.

  2. Wordwizard says:

    How not to catch a cold—frequent thorough hand washing. The WHO has a protocol on the proper way to do it—I saw it posted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Blood Donor Clinic, asked for a copy and learned it, though it took a little effort on my part, to memorize all the correct motions, like learning a complex “secret handshake”. It is amazing to me that the people who see these instructions every day, and should have learned them, doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, don’t practice them. Everyone uses latex gloves, but no one washes their hands before donning them. This is inexplicable, except that the risk in such cases is only to the patient, not to the person using the gloves…

    I started using Zincam after requesting and receiving from them two studies (done by the company) published in peer reviewed journals. Now I find that that doesn’t actually count for more than “promising” for more research. My anecdotal experience has been that they DO shorten my symptoms (My brother has also found the helpful.). The articles make clear that the tablets must be dissolved under the tongue to be effective—which is not mentioned in the instructions on the box! I also thought the combination of peer-reviewed articles and homeopathic claims odd enough to send to Brian long ago as a possible Wonder of the Week—a homeopathic remedy that actually had proof it works.

    • mudguts says:

      Thats funny.. its not very evident on a scholar search.. Are you sure you didnt swallow their interp on zinc buffoonery trials?

      You did do the search before posting?

    • Sam Gordon says:

      Most homeopathic medicines work, for the same reason all placebos work, at least some of the time. And as Ben Goldacre point out in Bad Science, placebos work even if you KNOW they are placebos. As a non-life-threatening short-term illness the effects of which are at least partly psychosomatic, the cold is an ideal candidate for placebo treatment. Take a few drops of some foul tasting (but inert) liquid, ideally from a bottle marked GUARANTEED COLD CURE, and pretty soon you’ll start feeling better. 🙂

  3. Steve Rogers says:

    I don’t often have a proper cold – I tend to show very mild symptoms, such as an intermittent runny nose and some tiredness, and only need to give up and go to bed every few years. This is not related to my wonderful diet, because my diet is very ordinary and gleaned from a low income. I have a self-employed desk job and spend most of my life at home, not taking any formal exercise. It has nothing to do with supplements because, as a good skeptoid, I don’t have an irrational belief in them and don’t take them. This also rules out the placebo effect. Finally, I used to have full-blown colds when I was a child and a young adult, but now I seem almost immune despite being 59. I’m glad I haven’t wasted my money and faith on pills and have no explanation whatsoever for my good health. All I can think is that being a non-smoker and never getting drunk may have something to do with it.

    • mudguts says:

      Your last line!!!! Well yer not going on a date at a pub then!!

      I am pretty much the same. But I also believe that you shouldnt go out in public if you are stuck with a transmissible disease. It’s enough to make you change a train carriage. (Admission to my inner Howard Hughes)

      • Sam Gordon says:

        Right – don’t go into public places when you have an easily transmittable disease, be careful where you cough and sneeze, avoid touching your face, touching shared objects like door handles subway poles etc, and WASH YOUR HANDS! Common cold – cured.

    • Steve one of the key points I made was that a cold is self limiting and there are many internal factors that have far to big an effect on recovery to dismiss. Secondly there is no set time for any illness. you are taking one factor that you arbitrarily picked out of many and arbitrarily decided that this means shorter. It is human nature to look for patterns and to see patterns where there is none. It just make you human to belief that something helps you. Antibiotics have great benefit that is not in question but people insist upon them even when they have a viral infection because personal experience has told them it made them get better when it doesn’t. It is just human nature to make these mistakes.

      • David says:

        Viral infections such as the common cold are often followed by bacterial infections. A doctor should not prescribe antibiotics for colds. If they do, then they are responsible for the growing ineffectiveness.

        • David.
          No the common cold doesn’t commonly evolve into a bacterial infection. Due to the anatomy of childrens ears Otis Media is the most common bacterial complication, but it is in small children primarily. Even in that sub population it is only about 2-5% of all upper respiratory viral infections. So there is an exceptionally low incidence of bacterial complications. That said most prescribers will treat a prolonged cold with antibiotics basically due to the precautionary principle.

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    In my opinion, your article is incompletely researched and irresponsible. It might be true that once a cold has been acquired it is too late for some immunity boosting chemicals to shorten the duration of that specific infection. However, the role of zinc in maintaining an effective immune system is well known: ask any doctor or pharmacist. Without delving into complex medical references, here is a street-level reference for easy understanding.

    It would have been a more balanced article if you had described why & when to take zinc, and the role, and benefits of taking, vitamin C.

    Perhaps you could edit your article to provide more balanced, and useful, advice rather than just biased condemnation.

    • Concerned Reader says:

      Sorry, the reference was omitted because your site doesn’t allow the pasting of URLs.
      Here it is:

      There are many more references available from medical organations’ websites if you would like to double check Wikipedia’s information accuracy.

      • Yes a deficiency is a problem but it not logical to then conclude that a person without deficiency therefore will get better from any illness since your body just eliminates the surpluses. Zinc like all dietary minerals has a toxic dose as well. So not sure what you point is?

        • David says:

          If the body eliminates the surpluses, then how can you manage to take a toxic dose?

          • Mudguts says:

            That would be about the most flippant remark I have seen coming from a modern western schooled poster.

            Its clear that you are just here for the argument, even if yours is deliberately positioned to appeal to the ignorants.

            If you have to beg questions, you should make an attempt to answer it yourself and ask others where the mistake in your reasoning is.

            Arguing by begging gets no answers.. people will just look at that and say.. That must be such and such..

    • Concerned and anonymous reader I havve looked at the evidence as I noted poor uncontrolled unreplicated and worse fabricated. It is not biased to speak the truth just because you don’t like the answer.

  5. Jim Arsenault says:

    As noted in the article, colds are self-limiting. Therefore, this piece of wisdom that I heard once probably holds true:

    If you treat a cold, it goes away in 7 days…If you ignore a cold, it goes away in a week.

  6. Ken King says:

    How in the hell can you claim “x” shortened your cold when you have absolutely no idea how long your cold was going to last?

    • Karolyn says:

      Well, simple. Colds generally last “typically seven to 10 days.” (as stated above) When I used to get them, they did and were pretty nasty. The last cold I had left me with a few sniffles and sore throat for 3 days; and it was about four years ago.

      • Typically does not mean that you accurate self diagnosed the problem or that colds must last at least 7 days, which they often do not. Colds can go 24 hours and 18 days at outer limits in a people with a normal immune system.

        • Karolyn says:

          My colds used to last at least 7 days, with residual affects lasting much longer, and I see that with most of the people I run into.

          • which mean what? that people memory is unreliable and plastic to suggestion? That is a well documented problem with self reporting symptoms. Another reason why people think body temp steady for them and has a high or low based upon their recollection. Why people belief in horoscopes, full moon syndrome and fear the number 13. Our brains are really really good at conflating and associating as well as falsifying. Your memories of others memories makes it exponentially unreliable. For arguments sake lets say you kept a diary that you faithfully recorded you and all your aqauintences cold durations and tested viral levels to demarkate the duration. It still doesn’t mean it is not perfectly normal to have a 3 day cold since it could be on of the million sub strains of the multitude of virus that cause cold symptoms. There is no definite number of days for any one cold event. Collectively statistically the average is 7-10 days out of billions of cold events. Picking one and saying my life style is responsible for the lone 3 day cold and therefore it is remarkable is credulous egotism.

  7. David says:

    I thought that comments had been disabled. Anyway Colds generally last “typically seven to 10 days.” Yes, they are viral to start with, often followed by bacterial infections, the symptoms of which can be treated, with antibiotics. Is a sore throat caused by a virus, or bacteria?

    Strange that placebos can be effective

    • David
      No, in general mild viral infections do not progress into bacterial infections. Journal of clinical microbiology did a well structured study that followed colds sufferers for 10 months less than 2.5% had any type of bacterial infection, only .87% were upper respiratory bacterial infection. Most were urinary tract infections. Most likely unrelated. This is a rate of bacterial infection consistent with unaffected population, maybe even slightly less. Sore throat evolves secondarily due to effects of the virus..IE mouth breathing, post nasal drip, lymph enlargement and it has direct effect of viral infection of nasopharyngeal mucosa. That meme that your cold evolves into a bacterial infection with time is another common mis-perception that makes people seek out antibiotic treatment when it has no effect.

      • David says:

        Thank you for that explanation. A simple check by the doctor could determine the presence of any undesirable bacteria likely to cause an infection. Then antibiotics could be prescribed. Otherwise the doctor should not prescribe simply because the patient requests it. This is bad medicine.

  8. fsdfsdfsdf says:

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  9. Mudguts says:

    Seeing the persistence continues..

    Please dig up the most recent trials so we can go over them? Nothing like blaming a book when you can go to the trial literature.

  10. Mabel Amber says:

    How to NOT catch colds and flus: don’t pamper your body. Take cold showers all year round and turn the heating down a couple of notches in winter. Avoid crowded places full of stale air. Walk at least an hour a day.
    Don’t stop taking vitamin C – you might not catch a cold but scurvy instead.

    End of story.

  11. Lazer says:

    My wife and I are over 60, have been involved in exercise and diet, seriously, for 45 years. We’ve had numerous colds during those years. Most colds have lasted 10 to 16 days. For the last 15 years we used Zi-Cam, and now, the other generic zinc tablets. Without the slightest doubt, the change from the old days to the new, occurred when we found these products. In the last 15 years, whenever the sign of cold would appear ( sniffles, sore throat, etc), we would take the zinc tablets, and within 2 days, all symptoms vanish completely. I can truthfully say that we have not had a “normal” cold for the last 15 years using the zinc products. There has been no other change to diet or exercise in those years. My wife is a teacher and is exposed to the commonly referred to “most virulent environment” with children bringing colds with them on a daily basis. Most teachers have succumbed to the onslaught, as my wife has. The difference is that she doesn’t miss a day of work because she takes the zinc tablets. I haven’t the slightest doubt in their efficacy.

  12. Stephen N, Australia says:

    My anecdote: when I get a cold I take lozenges to alleviate the symptoms. Then, feeling not so bad, I tend not to rest as much as I should while I get over the cold. I note that the cold lasts just as long, perhaps longer because I haven’t supported my body fighting the cold by resting.
    I know I cannot definitely know if that is the case, but is something I’m trying to remember about treatments that only address the symptoms.

  13. SwampWitch7 says:

    I remember an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies wherein Granny tells Mr. Drysdale about her never-failing cure for the common cold. He was very excited and picture big bucks rolling in on the patent. Ultimately she tells him that if a person takes her miracle cure the cold will be gone in a week to ten days as long as the patient gets plenty of rest and fluids.

    I get the same results with matzoh ball soup. (I’m not Jewish, but I have it on good authority from genuine Jewish friends that I make the best matsoh ball soup ever.)

    • Mudguts says:

      Jed Clampett: [remembering a time Granny broke her hip on the ice] The poor woman was limpin’ fer two days.

  14. Torchwood says:

    How I avoid catching colds: I get lip kisses daily from my cat who uses the same tongue for his kisses that he uses on his sand-box feet.

    The rhino-viruses are clearly overwhelmed and decimated by the competition.

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