The quest for the cure to the common cold has led people to try many different remedies. But when it comes to Airborne as a cold preventive, it seems as though you’ll have to keep looking. The supplement hasn’t been proven to prevent or cure the common cold.

This article will examine Airborne’s original purported benefits, such as to cure the common cold, and how the product has transitioned to a nutritional supplement.

When Airborne first hit the market in 1999, the manufacturers advertised the product as one that could help prevent or even cure the common cold. This proved a very controversial claim — so much so that a class action suit was filed against Airborne in 2007.

The manufacturer agreed to a $23.5 million settlement to give refunds to customers who could provide proof of purchase and to no longer advertise the product as a cure for the common cold.

Although the supplement no longer claims to fight colds, many people still take it as a way to fend off one.

What you can buy

Drugstores and other health food stores sell Airborne in a variety of preparations, including powders to mix with water and gummies to chew.

While there are several different Airborne preparations, some of the common components include antioxidants, such as vitamins A, E, C, and zinc, and a proprietary herbal blend, which includes echinacea.

Today, the makers of Airborne advertise the product as an immune-boosting supplement. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies the product as a supplement, the manufacturers don’t have to conduct the same research trials as medication manufacturers.

This means that Airborne manufacturers don’t have to conduct extensive research on whether or not the supplement can definitively boost someone’s immune system.

Airborne isn’t the only supposed cold-fighting product on the market. There are other supplements and homeopathic remedies, such as Zicam.

Does Zicam work?

Zicam is a brand of products that includes chewable tablets and nasal swabs. The main ingredient in these products is zinc in the forms of zinc acetate and zinc gluconate.

While Zicam claims that their product is clinically proven to fight colds, it’s important to read the fine print. They claim their product is based on homeopathic evidence rather than accepted medical evidence.

Much like Airborne, Zicam products don’t have extensive medical-based research to support their claims.

What about other supplements?

Cold prevention is a tricky subject. There are various research studies about different supplements that may help reduce the duration of colds. However, there are no studies that conclusively say a certain supplement will protect against or reduce the length of the flu.

According to the National Institutes of Health, these are some of the supplements people commonly use to treat colds:

  • Zinc. Using oral forms of zinc such as lozenges, syrups, or gels may help reduce the length of a cold, providing you take it when cold symptoms first start. However, you should shy away from long-term and nasal zinc use, as these may cause upset stomach, nausea, and affect your sense of smell.
  • Echinacea. Echinacea is an herb reported to help boost immune system function. Research from 2019 on echinacea and upper respiratory infections, including colds, didn’t find a definitive connection between echinacea and reducing the duration or incidence of a cold.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C has long been a go-to for people hoping to boost their immune systems. It’s an antioxidant, which means it has inflammation-fighting properties. Some studies suggest that vitamin C may have virus-killing properties. Research from 2019 found that taking supplementary vitamin C may help shorten the duration of a cold by half a day.

Other supplements may include elderberry, garlic, and ginseng. Again, researchers haven’t proven that any of these products definitely help to get rid of a cold faster.

Unfortunately, there are no fast cures or potions that you can take to boost your immune system enough to protect against a cold. But there are ways that you can reduce your risk, including the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, can help to remove germs that could potentially cause you to become sick.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your face. The eyes, mouth, and nose are the areas where the cold virus can transfer from your hands to your face. By washing your hands, you can reduce your risk for transmission.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If someone you know isn’t feeling well, try to maintain your distance until they’ve recovered.
  • Disinfect surfaces. Keeping frequently touched surfaces clean can help reduce your risk of getting a cold. Be sure to clean doorknobs, cellphones, and other commonly touched objects.

Colds are usually self-limiting: They aren’t fun, but they do go away with time. Of course, a little TLC doesn’t hurt in the meantime.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. This can prevent dehydration and help thin mucus that stuffs up your nasal passages. Warm liquids and soothing soups, such as chicken noodle soup may also help you feel better.
  • Get plenty of rest. This can help you feel less run down.
  • Use supportive medications that can help lessen symptoms. These medications include over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches and nasal sprays for stuffy noses.

Remember, antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viral infections.

While colds usually go away in several days, they can, in some cases, lead to other illnesses, such as sinus or ear infections. Colds can cause fluid buildup behind the ears or in air-filled sinus passages. This fluid attracts bacteria that can lead to infections.

Common signs of a cold include:

  • illness that lasts beyond 7 days
  • cough that’s usually worse at night
  • fever higher than 101.5°F (38.6°C)
  • very stuffy nose or ears, which may drain mucus

It’s also possible that your cold could be something else, like the flu. This may be the case if your symptoms include high fever or last beyond 5 days.

Many people take Airborne and feel like it helps them stay well. If this is the case for you, Airborne likely won’t hurt you. But it’s probably not a good idea to use it as your sole method for protecting against colds.

Handwashing, avoiding people who are sick, and cleaning surfaces frequently can all help prevent illness. If you do come down with a cold, be sure to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and stay home until you feel better.