We are in the midst of a particularly nasty cold and flu season. Although, most affected individuals may sniffle through it or miss a few days of work or school, the flu in particular has resulted in hospitalizations and deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), this year’s flu epidemic has been particularly hard on small children and seniors.
To get the latest scoop on how to reduce the impact of and manage the symptoms from these nasty little viruses, I consulted with Jennifer Collins, MD, an Assistant Professor and physician specializing in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in the Department of Otolaryngology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEEI). Here are her tips:
- Exercise on a regular basis: It helps to boost your immune system. Even taking a walk will help to keep your body healthy.
- Be physically affectionate: this reduces stress, which keeps immune system functioning effectively
- Laugh a lot: It also reduces stress and helps immune system function effectively
- Stick to a healthy diet with Vitamin C and Calcium; recommended level of Vitamin C: 500 mg/day.
- Take Zinc Gluconate product such as Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy: Zinc Gluconate is clinically proven to short the duration of a cold by nearly half. Viruses use the intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) receptors in the upper respiratory system to enter the cell and replicates. Zinc ions block the ICAM receptor preventing the cold virus from gaining entry into the cell and spreading
- Get extra sleep
Thus, the two effective remedies for cold and flu are zinc and Vitamin C. A new study published on January 31 in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews conducted a meta-analysis of 72 trials to evaluate the effectiveness of Vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of the common cold. The study authors were Harri Hemilá, MD, PhD, from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Helsinki, Finland, and an Australian colleague. They explained that Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold has been a subject of controversy for 70 years. They note that the common cold is a major cause of physician visits in high-income countries and of absenteeism from work and school. There are more than 200 viruses that can cause the common cold symptoms including runny nose, congestion, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and sometimes headache, fever, and red eyes. Symptoms vary from person to person and cold to cold. Since the common cold is usually caused by one of the respiratory viruses, antibiotics are useless; therefore, other potential treatment options are of substantial public health interest.
The goal of the meta-analysis was to determine whether Vitamin C reduces the incidence, the duration, or severity of the common cold when used either as a continuous regular supplementation every day or as a therapy at the onset of cold symptoms. Included in the study were 29 trial comparisons involving 11,306 participants. The risk ratio (RR) of coming down with a cold while taking Vitamin C regularly over the study period was determined. In the general community trials involving 10,708 participants, the pooled RR was 0.97. Five trials involving a total of 598 marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers on subarctic exercises yielded a pooled RR of 0.48. A total of 31 comparisons examined the effect of regular Vitamin C on common cold duration (9745 episodes). In adults the duration of colds was reduced by 8% (3-12%) and in children by 14% (7-21%). In children, 1 to 2 grams/day of Vitamin C shortened colds by 18%. The severity of colds was also reduced by regular Vitamin C administration. Seven comparisons examined the effect of therapeutic vitamin C (3,249 episodes). No consistent effect of vitamin C was seen on the duration or severity of colds in the therapeutic trials.
The authors concluded that the failure of Vitamin C supplementation to reduce the incidence of colds in the general population indicates that routine Vitamin C supplementation is not justified; however, Vitamin C may be useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise (i.e., marathon runners and skiers). They explained that regular supplementation trials have shown that Vitamin C reduces the duration of colds, but this was not replicated in the few therapeutic trials that were carried out. They wrote: “Nevertheless, given the consistent effect of Vitamin C on the duration and severity of colds in the regular supplementation studies, and the low cost and safety, it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic Vitamin C is beneficial for them. Further therapeutic RCTs are warranted.”
About Dr. Collins:
Jennifer Collins, MD is a Diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and Internal Medicine. She completed her fellowship in Allergy and Immunology at the Department of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in June 2009. She has published several papers and abstracts as well as oral presentations at national allergy and immunology meetings. Her research interests include the prevention of asthma in young children, chronic urticaria, chronic sinusitis and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. She is an active member of the chronic sinusitis committee for the American College of Allergy and Immunology, as well as a member of a number of professional societies including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and the America Medical Association. Dr. Collins maintains a personal blog titled, “Itchy & Scratchy” where she provides medical on fighting allergies and asthma to her patients in New York City.