Dr. Andrew Arnold discusses managing the common cold.

It’s that time of year again. Winters here and the cold temperatures may be a factor in creating challenges for our health and wellbeing.

Recent research, however, postulates ‘the odds of developing symptoms could be related to the association formed between the colder months and succumbing to the common cold, [6] and not related to the cold weather at all!

Comparatively, elite winter athletes were found to be vulnerable to upper respiratory infection creating a negative impact on training and competition. [8]

This aside, together with looking after yourself in general, here are 3 areas for discussion around managing symptoms associated with the common cold.

  1. Supplements:

Prevention of colds and influenza and “immune boosting” were among the top 10 reasons participants took…supplements. [5]


One study encourages the ‘common cold patient’ to consider ‘Zinc Acetate lozenges for treating their colds.’ [1] Zinc Supplementation Reduces Common Cold Duration among Healthy Adults. [2]

Vitamin C:

Taking additional, therapeutic dosages of Vitamin C as soon as symptoms of the common cold arise, has been found to ‘reduce the duration, shorten the time of confinement indoors and relieve the symptoms associated with it, including chest pain and chills.’ [2]

Another study, however, that identified eight systematic reviews including 45 studies , of which 31 were randomised trials, concluded the consumption of vitamin C does not prevent the incidence of common cold. [7]

One author concluded, ‘the failure of vitamin C supplementation to reduce the incidence of colds in the general population indicates that routine vitamin C supplementation is not justified… Regular supplementation trials have shown that vitamin C reduces the duration of colds, but this was not replicated in the few therapeutic trials carried out. Nevertheless, given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration and severity of colds in the regular supplementation studies, and the low cost and safety, it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial for them. Further therapeutic RCTs are warranted.’ [11]

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D plays a role in immune modulation and regulation. Individuals with respiratory disease are often deficient in vitamin D. This may imply that Vitamin D supplementation can provide significant benefit to these people and therefore, be adjuvant in the prevention and treatment of acute respiratory infections. [3]

Hope-Simpson postulated the ‘seasonal stimulus’ model where less sunlight in winter related to epidemic influenza. He suggested bursts of sunlight during winter, activating Vitamin D production, an important ‘immune system modulator’. Ultraviolet radiation (either from artificial sources or from sunlight) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections, as does cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D). An interventional study showed that vitamin D, therefore, may reduce the incidence of respiratory infections. [12]

  1. Exercise

But not all exercise. One study compares the impact of high intensity or acute endurance exercise and weight training or resistance exercise on the immune system at the cellular level. It seems high intensity exercise ‘causes a stronger mobilisation of immune cells than weight training.[4]

This study indicates that an aquatic exercise is an effective lifestyle intervention strategy for improving immune function and mood state in pre-frailty elderly women. [10]

Another study demonstrated that moderate exercise, e.g. a brisk walk as compared to no exercise, reduced numbers of sick days off by 50%, however, there was not a change in ‘resting immune function’.  ‘Positive effects on immunosurveillance and host protection…are probably related to a summation effect from acute positive changes that occur during each exercise bout.’ [13]

  1. Meditation and mindfulness

In recent times, there has focus on the area of mindfulness, meditation and the connection with human health and well-being. This has prompted the ‘first comprehensive review of randomised controlled trials examining the effects of mindfulness meditation on immune system parameters. Specifically, this focused on inflammatory mediators, gene expression, immune cells, immune longevity and antibodies. It is suggested there maybe positive effects regarding mindfulness, meditation and the immune system although, these findings are tentative.

Another recent study discusses the positive effects ‘meditation has on several markers of immune function, including Natural Killer cell activity, B lymphocytes and T-cells. [14]


Non-pharmaceutical supplementation, high intensity exercise training and meditation practice may play a role in the prevention of the common cold.

About the Author:

Dr. Andrew Arnold is a registered Chiropractor in Cranbourne, and practice owner, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre.


[1] Hemila H, Petrus E, Fitzgerald J, Prasad A, Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta‐analysis, British Pharmaceutical Society Journal, first published: 05 July 2016, https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.13057

[2] Ran L, Zhao W, Want J, Wang H, Zhao Y, Tseng Y, Huaien B, Extra Dose of Vitamin C on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials, Volume 2018 |Article, ID 1837634 | 12 pages | https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1837634

[3] Zdrenghea M, Makrinioti H, Bagacean C, Bush A, Johnston S, Stanciu L, Vitamin D, modulation of innate immune responses to respiratory viral infections, Reviews in Medical Virology, First published: 07 October 2016, https://doi.org/10.1002/rmv.1909

[4] Schlagheck M, Walzik D, Joisten N, Koliamitra C, Hardt L, Metcalfe A, Wahl P, Bloch W, Schenk A, Zimmer P, Cellular immune response to acute exercise: Comparison of endurance and resistance exercise, European Journal of Haematology, First published: 27 March 2020, https://doi.org/10.1111/ejh.13412

[5] Simasek M, Blandino D, Treatment of the Common Cold, Am Fam Physician. 2007 Feb 15;75(4):515-520, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0215/p515.html

[6] Pagnini F, Cavalera C, Volpato E, Banfi P, Illness expectations predict the development of influenza-like symptoms over winter, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 50, May 2020, 102396, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102396

[7] Gomez E, Quidel S, Bravo-Soto G, Ortigoza A, Does vitamin C prevent the common cold?, Medwave 2018 Jul-Ago;18(4):e7236 doi: 10.5867/medwave.2018.04.7236, https://www.medwave.cl/link.cgi/English/Updates/Epistemonikos/7236?ver=sindiseno

[8] Bae M, Kim S, Yun J, The Experience of the Upper Respiratory Infection of the Elite Winter Sports Athletes and Its Effect on Training and Competition, Korean J Sports Med. 2019 Jun;37(2):54-59. Korean, Published Online Jun 05, 2019.  https://doi.org/10.5763/kjsm.2019.37.2.54

[9] Wang M, Win S, Pang J, Zinc Supplementation Reduces Common Cold Duration among Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials with Micronutrients Supplementation, Pub. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and HygieneVolume 103, Issue 1, 8 Jul 2020, p. 86 – 99, DOI: https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.19-0718

[10] Lee E, Lim S, Kim W, Aquatic exercise for improving immune function and mental stress in pre-frailty elderly women, published online: 04 Mar 2020, https://doi.org/10.1080/08952841.2020.1735287

[11] Hemila H, Chalker E, Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Systematic Review – Intervention Version published: 31 January 2013,


[12] Cannell J, Vieth R, Umhau J, Holick M, Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D, Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2006, Volume 134Issue 6, pp. 1129-1140

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268806007175

[13] Nieman D, Pedersen B, Exercise and Immune Function, Published: 23 September 2012, Sports Medicine, volume 27, pages73–80(1999).

[14] Thibodeaux N, Rossano M, Review Meditation and Immune Function: The Impact of Stress Management on the Immune System, Integrative and Complementary Medicine 2018, volume 3, issue 4 doi:10.21926/obm.icm.18040xx Received: July 16, 2018 Accepted: November 22, 2018 Published:

Category: Chiropractor

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