Common Cold Prevention And Treatment
January 28, 2014

Zinc And Hand Washing Are The Best Methods To Prevent The Common Cold

[ Watch the Video: Preventing The Common Cold ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Science still hasn’t found a way to cure the common cold, but a new research review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found that regular hand washing and a steady intake of zinc are the best ways to keep from getting sick.

"Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating,” the study authors wrote. “It causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving.”

The study team assessed 67 randomized controlled trials and found hand washing and disinfectants are the best ways to ward off colds. Two trials revealed that kids who took 10 to 12 milligrams of zinc sulfate every day had fewer colds and fewer absences from school. While zinc was found to work mostly in children, the study authors said zinc could do the job for adults as well. Vitamin C, the "gold standard" of cold fighters, was not found to be as effective.

"For treatment of common cold, what you'd be looking at are things like fever and pain control, so acetaminophen or ibuprofen, again kids are a little bit better with ibuprofen for fever," study author Michael Allan, Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, said in an interview with CBC News.

Mixing antihistamines with decongestants or pain remedies was considerably effective in teenagers, but not in kids younger than 5 or in men and women. Congestion was more complicated to manage, the researchers said. Nasal mist with ipratropium, which is used to help treat serious pulmonary conditions, was found to stop runny noses but did nothing at all to reduce stuffiness within the nostrils and the chest.

Allan said a little honey at bedtime could help those with a severe cough and added that honey should not be given to infants because of the danger of botulism.

"If you give the two to five age group a single dose at bedtime of either half a teaspoon or two teaspoons, what's been shown is reduction or improvement in sleep scores,” he said.

Allan also warned against traditional Chinese medicines, which were "batting one out of 17" in the studies he helped to review with respect to providing a benefit.

"Desperation will lead to just about anything," Allan said. "When people are sick, they'll try everything, from a spoonful of cayenne pepper, etcetera. Of course there's very little research, or no research, on any of those kind of things."

Allan also said the old stand-by chicken soup may fall into that category. It's warm and comforting on the throat, but a can of soup will not help fight off a cold.

The common cold affects adults about 2 to 3 times a year and children under age 2 about 6 times a year. Symptoms are usually worse in the first few days and can last as long as three weeks. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, direct medical costs in the United States were an estimated $17 billion a year in 1997. Indirect costs, such as missed work, were an estimated $25 billion per year.