Cold Preventers We Swear By

We insist these products have spared us from the office cold more than once.

a bottle of echinacea goldenseal
a bottle of echinacea goldenseal
(Image credit: J. Muckle)

Science sometimes begs to differ, but we insist these products have spared us from the office cold more than once. Could be the placebo effect (pretty potent when it comes to colds), but they work for us.

PRODUCT: Echinacea, an herb (a member of the daisy family), reputed to boost immunity.

WHO USES IT/WHEN: Me! I pop the capsules at the first sign of a cold because it's the most well-studied of the alternative remedies.

THE EVIDENCE: Studies more than a year ago found it didn't work, but a new review paper says it might.

PRODUCT: Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy made of diluted duck heart and liver.

WHO USES IT/WHEN: Lucy Kaylin, executive editor, lets the stuff dissolve in her mouth at the first sign of a scratchy throat.

THE EVIDENCE: No evidence it can prevent a cold, but it may be able to shorten the flu.

PRODUCT: Emergen-C, a powder containing 1000 milligrams of vitamin C and other nutrients.

WHO USES IT/WHEN: Kelly Marages, associate editor, makes a refreshing spritzer by mixing the raspberry flavor with lime Perrier.

THE EVIDENCE: C might help prevent colds if you've been doing extreme exercise or have been in freezing weather all day. May take a few days off a cold.

PRODUCT: Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, containing zinc

WHO USES IT/WHEN: Brett Glass, fashion credits editor, prefers this easy-to-use nose spray to zinc lozenges (which can have a weird, metallic aftertaste).

THE EVIDENCE: Scientists haven't found it staves off colds, but some studies have shown zinc may shorten the duration of the cold you get.