I know “cure” is a strong word…but when it comes to the common cold, anything close to helping would be appreciated, thank you very much. So let’s not call it a cure, but a new study has found that zinc supplements reduce the severity and duration of illness caused by the common cold.
According to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library, “zinc syrup, lozenges or tablets taken within a day of the onset of cold symptoms reduce the severity and length of illness. At seven days, more of the patients who took zinc had cleared their symptoms compared to those who took placebos. Children who took zinc syrup or lozenges for five months or longer caught fewer colds and took less time off school.” Zinc also reduced antibiotic use in children, which is so important given the overuse implications for antibiotic resistance.
“This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold,” said lead researcher Meenu Singh of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India. “However, at the moment, it is still difficult to make a general recommendation, because we do not know very much about the optimum dose, formulation or length of treatment.”
I take zinc when I am run down or feel a cold coming on, and ever since I have had very little illness in my life–and that’s with a stream of elementary school germs flooding my home. Do you take zinc, or other supplements, to treat a cold? What have you found to be an effective way of handling illness?
Next: The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness
Cures and treatments aside, the most effective way to prevent illness in the first place often gets lost in the shuffle (probably because it is so strikingly simply): Wash your hands!
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is the best way to prevent infection and illness. And imagine–it is cheap, it does not hurt the environment, and there is no question about negative implications for our own health. It is such an obvious win-win.
The CDC recommends that we wash our hands before preparing food and after handling uncooked meat and poultry, before eating, after changing diapers, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose into a tissue, and after using the bathroom–to that I would add a good wash as soon as you or your children come home from school, work, errands, playing, etc.
Here’s how to wash your hands most effectively:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
- Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds. (For my kids, I recommend singing a round of ABCs.)
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- When out, dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.
- Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands.