Zinc, hand washing lead to cold prevention

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As long-term caregivers wind down winter and its accompanying illnesses, a new review indicates that hand washing and zinc might help prevent the common cold.

Colds can be prevalent and debilitating, and cause billions in direct and indirect costs, such as missing work for illness. Only 5% of colds are related to bacterial infections, researchers wrote in the Canadian Medical Journal in January, which means those who are ill should avoid taking antibiotics. Ginseng, gargling, vapor rubs, Vitamin C and honey also are unlikely to help adults with a cold, the review found.

Proper hand washing, as well as taking zinc, can help keep germs at bay, the investigators determined.

Once a person has a cold, nasal sprays, antihistamines combined with decongestants, and pain relievers may help. However, prevention is important, as a cold “causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving,” wrote authors Michael Allan, M.D., of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, and Bruce Arroll, Ph.D., of the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care at the University of Auckland.