Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

Let’s start with the bad news: none of those supplements packed with zinc and vitamin C will banish a cold altogether. But research suggests both can help. For example, numerous studies reveal popping a zinc lozenge within 24 hours of the first symptoms could shorten the duration of a cold by at least a day (if not longer).

On the other hand, vitamin C is a little less certain. Though inconclusive, some research demonstrates this antioxidant could prevent colds in more extreme circumstances (think: skiers and military personnel), but not for the rest of us. However, supplements that pack as much vitamin C as 11 glasses of O.J. (yup, Airborne has that much) may not be worth splurging on because the body doesn’t absorb additional vitamin C if it doesn’t need it. Either way, the best defense against a cold is not catching one — focus on keeping those hands clean and getting enough sleep.

The Takeaway: Both zinc and vitamin C could have some effect on colds, but it’s all about timing and dosage. Zinc needs to be taken as soon as sickness sets in, and overdoing it on the vitamin C has no added benefit.

Already Got a Cold?

Maybe that book series “Chicken Soup for the Soul” was on to something. Chicken soup could also be just what you need to fight a cold because many of the ingredients imitate the effects of actual meds.

Fun Fact:

The common cold costs the U.S. economy about $40 billion per year, mostly due to missed work and school days, doctor visits, and medication costs.