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Common Cold Facts and Myths

How Many Colds We Get Each Year

In the United States, there are over 1 billion colds each year.1 Colds are the most common reason for children to miss school and adults to miss work. Parents often catch colds from their children, who usually get them from other children at school or daycare, where colds can spread quickly. Preschool and elementary school children may have 6-12 colds per year, while teenagers and adults typically have about 2-4 colds per year. Each year, all of these colds add up to:2

  • Approximately 22 million missed days of school,
  • An estimated 75-100 million doctors’ visits, and
  • More than $20 billion of lost work productivity
  • $5 billion spent on over-the-counter cold remedies

Why We’ll Continue to Get Colds

Because so many different viruses can cause a cold and new cold viruses are constantly developing, our immune systems are not able to build up resistance to all cold viruses. Cold viruses also spread easily and can live on objects or surfaces for days. You can catch a cold by inhaling the virus if you’re sitting close to someone who sneezes or coughs, or by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after you’ve touched something contaminated by a cold virus.

Do Natural or Homeopathic Cold Remedies Work?

There is no cure for the common cold, and colds typically resolve with time. Many people use home treatments to relieve the symptoms associated with the cold. Drinking hot ginger and lemon tea or gargling with warm salt water may help to soothe a sore throat. Nasal irrigation may help to clear nasal passages of mucus. Although these treatments may help you feel better while your body fights off the infection, they typically do not prevent or shorten the duration of the cold.

Echinacea, vitamin C, and chicken soup are other popular alternative remedies. Chicken soup may help to relieve cold symptoms in multiple ways. Inhaling the steam may ease nasal congestion and drinking fluid can help avoid dehydration. There is even research suggesting that chicken soup may even soothe inflammation. If you have a medical condition or take medications, check with your doctor before taking any herbal or vitamin supplements when you have a cold.

Taking Zinc at the First Signs of a Cold

Studies have shown that zinc has an effect against cold viruses. A recent review of more than 25 years of research on zinc and colds found that zinc helps to shorten the duration of colds, especially if it’s taken within 24 hours of the first signs of a cold.

  1. MedlinePlus. Common Cold. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000678.htm. Accessed July 14, 2014.
  2. MedicineNet. Common Cold. Available at http://www.medicinenet.com/common_cold/article.htm#common_cold_facts. Accessed July 15, 2014.

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