Getting those first signs of a cold? You’re probably wondering if it might be worth taking some form of vitamin C, or trusting a handful of other remedies touted as helping to nip a cold in the bud, such as working up a big sweat at the gym or taking steam. But do any of these approaches actually help?
According to studies, “sweating out” a cold right at its start (or later) isn’t likely to do anything to reduce its impact, no matter how you do it — via exercise, steam, or sitting in a hot, dry sauna. Many people in the studies swore they felt a little better, at least temporarily, but by all objective measures, there wasn’t any improvement in their colds.
And then there’s nasal washing or irrigation, which involves spraying or otherwise propelling water up through your nose into your nasal passages via a “neti pot” or other implements in the theory that it washes out mucus harboring the cold virus. Those, too, have been found ineffective against curtailing colds (and can cause infections if you use tap water instead of bottled saline solution).
Research on two supplements—vitamin C and zinc — indicates they could have a bit of benefit.
The notion that vitamin C can help prevent and fight off colds has been around for the better part of a century — plenty long enough for researchers to have put the notion to the test in numerous ways, many of them rigorous. The evidence that it sometimes works to snuff out or at least moderate a cold that’s starting to take hold has gone back and forth over these studies. But the argument is mostly considered over, thanks largely to an exhaustive 2005 review study that looked at 55 previous studies, and a 2017 follow-up review.
None of these behaviors will do much for you with a cold if you take engage in them after you’ve been hit.
The verdict from those studies is that for most people, grabbing vitamin C at the first sign of a cold won’t help in any way. But those who regularly take a…