Want to Cut Your Chances of Catching a Cold? Try These Tips

Don't Automatically Run To Antibiotics

Contrary to popular belief, “antibiotics are completely useless against colds,” Ackerman says. “They’re powerful drugs designed to kill bacteria, but colds are viruses so it has no effect on them.” Plus, by needlessly taking antibiotics you are putting yourself at risk of side effects such as an upset stomach, and contributing to the growing problem of drug resistance caused by overuse of these meds. If you’re really feeling bad, she says, try an over-the-counter remedy to feel more comfortable instead.

Be Mindful of Natural Remedies

Though Vitamin C, Echinacea, zinc and ginseng have all been touted as cold salves, the latest studies indicate they may not live up to the hype. For instance, says Ackerman, Vitamin C has been shown to prevent colds in folks who live in extremely chilly climates or are exercising at marathon-training intensity; for them, a daily dose of a couple hundred milligrams cut cold incidence. But for the rest of us? It's not so clear.

A patented form of North American ginseng was shown in a manufacturer-sponsored study to slightly reduce cold incidence and make symptoms a bit less severe, but the dose and the daily cost of the supplement don't seem to be worth this tiny boost, states Ackerman.

The jury's still out on how effective Echinacea may be. But some products on the market today are so choked with filler ingredients, they don’t even contain the herb (so check the ingredients). And before you pick up a zinc product, be warned: Some zinc 'cold preventers' have actually been shown to damage smell, she says. Her advice: Stick with regular over-the-counter remedies, and chicken noodle soup, instead.

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