“There are just too many cold viruses out there and they change a little bit every year, so there’s no way you could ever have a vaccine,” says Dr. Kevin Ferentz, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at GBMC.
Although cold season is again upon us, there’s no reason to get overly glum. The good news is that we know the best action to take to avoid catching a cold, or spreading one if you do get sick, and it’s painfully simple: Wash your hands early and often. That’s it.
You see, while you can catch colds via airborne transmission, Dr. Ferentz says its far more likely for one of the myriad of cold viruses to enter us via our hands. Here’s one scenario: A guy with a cold coughs into his hand, then shakes your hand, and then you rub your eye or touch your mouth. Just like that, the virus has jumped into a whole new human host. (Many healthcare pros feel if we all coughed and even sneezed into the crook of our elbows instead of our hands, we could make a serious dent in cold transmissions.)
However you catch one, as soon you get sniffly the first thing you should do is reach for the Vitamin C, right? Not so fast. “Vitamin C has been looked at in randomized control/placebo trials and it neither prevents colds nor makes colds go away faster,” Dr. Ferentz says. Now, some studies have shown that zinc lozenges, if you take enough of ’em in the early going, might reduce a cold by one day. But the good doc warns that such doses of zinc can cause gastrointestinal distress, so you might swap one set of symptoms for another.
Best thing you can do when you come down with one of the two or three colds adults get a year is to ride it out, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.
Decongestants, antihistamines, expectorants, and all the rest of the potions and pills lining drug store shelves can provide symptomatic relief. (They can make you feel better, but they won’t actually speed the getting better.) So, just Netflix and chill with a bowl of soup.
And don’t forget to wash your hands.