Winter is the season for sledding, ice-skating outdoors, making snow angels and snowball fights.
Unfortunately, it is also the season for winter colds. We all know how miserable it is to have that nagging cough, runny nose and general fatigue that comes along with the rhinovirus right in the middle of all the holiday activities.
The common cold is the most frequent acute illness throughout the industrialized world and totals more than 500 million cases each year, just in the United States.1 Unfortunately, these cases don’t happen just once per year. The average incidence of colds is two to three per year for adults and five to seven per year for children.
Most colds happen during winter because the rhinovirus, which is responsible for the common cold, seems to prefer colder temperatures, which is why people are more likely to be susceptible during the winter season.2
Given all of this, you should expect to see more patients showing up in your office during winter, who are looking for ways to shorten the duration of winter colds or protect themselves against the latest round of common cold that is running rampant in their workplace, child’s school, or mommy-and-me playgroup.
Odds are good that your patients will also ask if certain vitamins or supplements will help, of which the most common will be vitamin C. Can it actually help, and what does the research say about the effectiveness of vitamin C for preventing the spread of the common cold?
Current best practices for treating the common cold
Most of us probably remember when the general practitioner would dole out prescriptions for the common cold, which usually consisted of antibiotics and cough medicine with codeine. In fact, a 2011 survey showed that Americans spent spend upward of $4 billion per year on cough and cold medications.3
Today, however, best practices for family medicine discourage most prescription medicines, in favor of and over the counter remedies, to relieve symptoms, rather than cure the actual condition.4
Is vitamin C effective in protecting against the common cold?
A 2013 meta-analysis, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, pooled together the results from a number of smaller studies to look for patterns of similarities in the results on the effectiveness of vitamin C in protecting against the common cold.5
Although vitamin C did not protect against the common cold among studies examining the number of colds over a certain timeframe, vitamin C did significantly reduce the duration and severity of colds in those studies looking at regular, ongoing supplementation with vitamin C.5 Overall, cod severity and duration dropped by 8 percent for adults and by 14 percent for children.
The researchers concluded that vitamin C could be worthwhile as part of a regular vitamin and supplement regimen, in order to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.
Wintertime should be when your patients are enjoying having family together. Fortunately, adding vitamin C into your patients’ regular routine of vitamins and supplements can boost their immune system against colds so that they can enjoy the winter festivities as much as possible.
- The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and clinical features. UpToDate. Accessed 11/15/2017.
- Foxman EF, Storer JA, Fitzgerald ME, et al. (2015). Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(3), 827-832.
- Tuttle B. Are most cold medications a complete waste of money? Time Magazine. Accessed 11/15/2017.
- Fashner J, Ericson K, Werner S. (2012). Treatment of the common cold in children and adults. American Family Physician, 86(2), 153-159.
- Hemilä H, Chalker E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 31(1), CD000980.