Survey shows at least half of parents try vitamin C, zinc, and other methods that don’t have much impact on colds.
What’s better prevention for keeping your kids from catching a cold?
Vitamin C tablets or regular hand-washing?
And is echinacea a better cold treatment than a tall glass of water?
Your answer matters.
More than half of parents may be using non-evidence–based methods of helping prevent or treat their children’s colds, a new survey from the University of Michigan suggests.
Those methods included vitamin C supplements, echinacea, supplements marketed as “immune system boosters,” and zinc, among others, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health shows.
The problem is that these methods don’t work.
“Zinc and vitamin C are the two items people most commonly seek out in the pharmacy area, but neither has solid, conclusive evidence that they prevent or reduce the severity of the common cold,” Brady McNulty, PharmD, an affiliate faculty member at Oregon Health Sciences University, told Healthline. “Zinc, especially if taken in doses above the daily recommended allowance, has the chance to cause flu-like symptoms and alter someone’s ability to taste.”
In addition to these methods, around 70 percent of parents used “folklore strategies” to try to prevent their children from catching a cold.
That included everything from preventing their kids from going outside in winter with wet hair (52 percent) as well as keeping them indoors (48 percent) to stave off a bug.
“It’s important for parents to understand which cold prevention strategies are evidence-based,” Dr. Gary Freed, MPH, co-director of the poll and a pediatrician at Mott, wrote in a university press release. “While some methods are very effective in preventing children from catching the cold, others have not been shown to actually make any difference.”
What parents are doing right
School-age children catch colds — around three to six per year — according to the Mott survey.
It’s an inevitability.
But every parent knows all too well that staying home with a sick kid isn’t fun for anyone. So it’s no wonder so many are invested in preventing colds in the first place and speeding up recovery when they happen.
Colds are viruses, so the main way to prevent them is to prevent kids from coming into direct contact with the virus.
That means staying away from mucus droplets spread through the air from someone coughing or sneezing, or from playing with toys, or touching door handles, countertops, and other objects that may have the cold virus on them.
And on that front, parents are doing many things correctly.
The Mott poll reports 99 percent of parents polled said that encouraging good hygiene was an important way to help prevent their children from catching a cold.
Aside from washing hands regularly, that included tactics such as teaching kids not to put their hands near their noses and mouths (94 percent), avoiding sharing drinks and utensils with other children (94 percent), and even using hand sanitizer regularly (70 percent).
Furthermore, most parents are also teaching their kids to stay away from people who are already sick (87 percent) and even going so far as to ask their relatives who have colds to limit contact with their healthy children (64 percent).