Airborne: Does it help your family avoid colds?

Airborne Effervescent Health FormulaWe’re battling the round-robin rhinovirus around here…the cold that infects one kid, then another, then me. It seems that no amount of hand washing, Purell, or general voodoo is keeping us healthy. All except for one of us…my husband. He swears that his secret is Airborne, the effervescent orange-flavored herbal/vitamin tablet you drop into a glass of water and gulp down. As soon as anyone gets sick, he starts taking Airborne, and he generally manages to avoid whatever pestilence is going around. (The kids get a kick out of watching the plop-fizz action, too.) I, of course, pooh-pooh his insistence that it works, and I’m the one sniffling the next morning.

So there you have it — our highly unscientific experience with Airborne. My parents in-law swear by Zicam chewables. My neighbor loves her echinacea-and-zinc cocktail. What’s your favorite cold-fighting secret?

Note: Amazon’s having a special on select Airborne products through 2/28 — $10 off $39-worth. Three 3-packs at today’s price, with the discount, ends up being about $4.38 per pack which is the cheapest I’ve seen it, and shipping’s free. I’m stocking up, because we go through the stuff at an alarming rate.


  1. HDC says

    I have to claim skeptic on your hubby’s claims on Airborne. I’ve used it this season and it didn’t do squat to stop the cold onslaught. I have to wonder how much time you spend with the kids on a day to day basis compared to the other half.

    Anywho, the Zicam stuff is woefully inconsistent for me and mine. During cold season we find that obsessive compulsive hand washing and extra baths with the menthol bath gel for the baby help keep the duration down. Plus extra laundry cycles (fluffy, fresh from the dryer flannel bed sheets!!) and opening up the house when we can to let the air circulate seems to at least keep our spirits up when fighting off the bugs. And getting out for walks too keeps our energy levels better.

  2. says

    I take astragalus tincture in water a few times a day for a couple weeks to boost immunity. Also, raw garlic (sounds gross but totally works) helps if you catch a cold and you take it in the very beginning.

    Dr. Weil recommends both of those and they work wonders for me.

  3. says

    I take an extra 500mg of Vit C everyday in addition to my multivitamin. I take 1000mg if I start to feel sick. Emergen C is a great product for this.
    Also, pumping the garlic pills and echinacea worked wonders when I was a teacher. But now I take Airborne since it’s easier. I’ve only gotten one cold in the past year so it seems to be working!

  4. says

    It might also be that your husband just has a higher tolerance for the bug. I’m the same way: everyone in the house can be sick and I might get a sniffle or a scratchy throat for a day or two, but that’s it. And I don’t take anything special. Mind you, on those rare occasions when I do get sick, it’s like the black plague or something.

  5. says

    Canadian readers (Hi!) will likely start to spout off about the efficacy of our home grown product called Cold-fX. My second son started having health issues very early after birth and my wife insisted I start taking it daily, knowing that I get absolutely wicked seasonal head colds, and damned if she was going to let me infect our son! Well, his first birthday is this weekend and in the past year I’ve had nothing worse that a bad case of the sniffles.

    It’s not cheap — a big bottle of 250 caplets will run you about 60 bucks (far more expensive than a similar amount of multi-vitamins) — but I swear by the stuff and plan to continue taking them daily as a preventive measure.


  6. Marykz says

    i.e. the power of the placebo- my rheumatologist recently told me he takes Airborne- even though he’s not sure it really works. He said “It seemed to make my cold go away faster. I don’t care if it is the placebo effect, I just don’t want to be sick.” I found that pretty amusing coming from a very traditionally trained and excellent doctor…

  7. says

    My husband and I start popping Quantum’s Zinc and elderberry lozenges. (33mg elderberry, 7 mg zinc) They seem to keep the sickness at bay. My son has a nasty cold right now and he’s had it more than a week but neither my husband or I have even a sniffle. I used to manage a health food and supplement store and in my experience,the problem with colds and viruses isn’t what works on the bug but what works to stimulate YOUR immune system. Some people respond well to Vitamin C, others to Zinc. Elderberry has done great in European clinical studies to shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms of a cold or flu by 50%. I think it depends on you and your lifestyle. If you’re run down, not drinking enough fluids and stressed out, no amount of echinacea voodoo is going to keep that cold at bay.

  8. says

    I’ll step up and swear by the Zicam nasal swabs, combined with zinc lozenges if I actually feel a cold coming on. I’ve been using the swabs this winter whenever anyone in the house is sick, and I’ve managed to completely avoid two bouts of green-snot-infested-colds. The worst I’ve gotten is a little bit of a sore throat for a day or two, and then it goes away when I take the zinc.

    Much, much better than the situation at the start of the winter, before I was taking the Zicam, when it was one round robin of colds between me, the kid, and the husband. Yuck.

  9. lou says

    no they don’t help. I don’t take anything and sometimes i get sick with my family and sometimes i don’t. My wife tries everything and sometimes she gets sick and sometimes she doesn’t. enjoy your placebos.

  10. skepticaldad says

    Airborne, Zicam and similar products are not required to be shown to be safe or effective before they are marketed.

    There are numerous lawsuits against the makers of Zicam by people who claim that they lost their senses of taste and/or smell after using the product. Yet it continues to be marketed and sold. The FDA’s ability to pull dangerous or ineffective supplements off the market is virtually nil, thanks to the intensive and deceptive lobbying of the Supplements Industry in the 90s.

    A ridiculous loophole was created in the 90s that allowed anything calling itself a “supplement” to be evade scrutiny by the FDA. These are products are marketed by a multi-billion dollar industry that cloaks itself in the false-populist veneer of promoting “natural” products, without having to show that their products work. Don’t waste your money.

  11. Kate says

    Hubby takes Airborne too, but if you read the ingredients you’ll realize it’s a vitamin with baking soda, basically. It “keeps him well”, but then again, he’s always avoided stuff better than me. Let’s also face it, in most traditional families, Mom is doing a lot more of the kid activities and a lot more of the nose wiping! No amount of Airborne is going to stop that.

  12. Lauren Snell says

    I use the Zicam chewables and have been pretty healthy the last two years. My husband can’t be bothered to remember to take them, and he’s fought through some nasty colds.

    A funny aside: when I clicked on the Zicam link you gave, Amazon’s “Better Together” suggested I pair my Zicam with An Inconvenient Truth DVD.

  13. says

    Lauren: Inconvenient, indeed!

    My brain and gut both tell me everyone who’s crying “placebo!” is right — it’s my more frequent exposure and my spottier attention to handwashing that’s getting me sick, not the Airborne keeping Rael healthy. I can’t be sure, of course, but it makes most sense. It’s funny how superstition can creep into our lives, no matter how smart or skeptical we are. Many of us still cling to our magic amulets and lucky charms.

  14. Jennifer says

    We’ve spent this whole winter on round robin colds. Oddly enough, my husband has been hit hardest even though he’s at the office and not around all the kid germs.

    If I can manage the discipline, avoiding all processed or refined foods, especially sugar, does the trick for me. Colds will only last a couple of days and be much less severe. Unfortunately I rarely can manage it so I also rely on Zicam or zinc drops.

  15. says

    Airborne? Ha! The only reason that its been around as long as it has is because it is aggressively marketed. I was in a Walgreens and a pharmacist actually told someone not to buy it and to go get some zinc and garlic tablets instead. I don’t think my wife or I would ever consider taking something like this.

  16. Jasi says

    Best thing for us is to avoid low immunity pitfalls. Get lots of rest, drink lots of water, low stress, fresh air, clean house, clean hands. And above all… avoid flu-ridden family like the plague! They love love love to snug up to baby any chance they get without the slightest thought of what it will do to her or our household.

  17. says

    I’m a big fan of getting a flu shot, taking a multivitamin, and regular handwashing.

    It’s not flashy, but darned if it doesn’t work.

  18. Kai Jones says

    What made a difference at my house was individual hand towels. Washing your hands and then drying them with the same towel somebody else used means that less-than-thorough washing spreads germs.

  19. an3 says

    airborne never worked for me. I do use Zicam swabs, and most importantly I use Sinucleanse everyday.
    I can’t say enough good things about this product. I should get paid for all the recommendations for it I give!!!

  20. J9 says

    Be very careful with Airborne. It has what can be a toxic level of Vitamin A, which can cause long-term health issues. The recommended safe upper limit for vitamin A is 10,000 IUs daily. This amount is easily exceeded when following Airborne’s directions, as it is stated on the packaging, to “repeat every three hours as necessary” (with a maximum of three doses per day).

  21. Beth says

    I used to be the queen of getting sick. When I was younger my dad would load me up on the garlic, echinacea, zing, vitamin E, etc…I always thought it was kind of silly, and half the time, I wouldn’t take the pills that were left for me on my bathroom counter. However, when I had my first son, I found myself getting sick too often and the severity was just awful. I began taking just plain zinc. Nothing special, no flavored lozenges, no products marketed for that purpose. I bought the store brand Zinc, the kind that you let melt in your mouth. I pop these things the moment I feel something coming on. I’ll use them every few hours (they do upset my tummy). Sometimes I completely bypass the cold, and sometimes I don’t. However, I can say that the times I do get the cold, I feel as though the severity is substantially less. The difference of stuck in bed and chugging nyquil/dayquil and being slightly uncomfortable with the cold is priceless.

    I must say, however, for the purposes of the poll: I discovered this Zinc trick right around the time I started “growing up” and being a bit easier on my body. In that year, I quit smoking, started exercising religiously, switched to all natural or organic foods, and became a vegetarian. I got/get at least 7 hours of sleep as often as I can, etc…

  22. Jennifer says

    I looked into the zicam lawsuits a few months ago. They seem to be centered around the nasal spray. Sorry, I don’t have a link to more info.

    I recently taught my daughter to wipe her hands on her own towel. Daddy’s towel is closest to the sink so we all regularly used his. Now we each use our own which will hopefully cut down on germ sharing.

    I’m also teaching my daughter, who loves babies, to either wave at them or play peek-a-boo instead of touching them.

  23. Genevieve says

    I use Cold-eez zinc capsules when I feel a cold coming on. They really do seem to lessen the intensity and length of the cold. They’re primarily Vitamin C and zinc, I believe.

    I wouldn’t use the Zicam swabs because of research on people losing their sense of smell (which came out a while before the lawsuits).

  24. Blackberry says

    Coldcalm is works for me. Have been cold free for 2 years since starting to use it. It works best on the first sign you might even think something is coming on. If not, then the length of your cold will be shorter than it usually is when you take it.

  25. barb says

    Just wanted to say that I’ve always loved the words “tincture,” and, “poultice,” at least one of which have been used here.

    Pertinent to the topic, though, is that I can, and do, and MUST, wash my hands RAW this time of year (in Maine),and, certainly, nothing curtails the spread of germs like regular handwashing– but, I counter with regular rubs of olive oil. Prior to my love affair with olive oil, I had suffered extremely chapped and cracked knuckles. Dozens of lotions later, I will attest to olive oil’s attributes…. It has transformed both my knuckles, AND my post-40 yr old winter dryness on my face.

  26. says

    I’m a big fan of 1000mg tabs of Vitamin C + ecchinacea washed down with glutamine powder in my water. I follow this regimine in the morning and night when everyone starts getting sick. If I start feeling achey too, then I’ll add some non-aspirin.

    I think more importantly though, the previous advice of rest, stress reduction (I like to rent some comedys to get me laughing ala Norman Cousins
    Also, cutting back on the workout routine when everyone is getting sick can help too, especially if you are starting to feel a little sick.

    This has worked very well for me, unfortunately I have to sit and watch everyone else get sick around my household. =(

  27. says

    I wish I could be as diligent as everyone else in washing hands, getting plenty of sleep, doing everything else possible to try and stay healthy, but I just can’t right now. I used to take Zicam but I always thought it made my cold come on worse and last longer, so I stopped.

    I regularly get sinus infections and since I started Airborne I will swear by it, placebo or not. Whatever ingredients are in it helps me and has staved off numerous colds this season.

  28. XrayDad says

    Regular ol’ multivitamins probably do about as much good. My tip, which I haven’t seen here yet, is make sure all bedrooms have humidifiers in winter (depending on the climate you live in, of course). Dried-out sinuses are prime targets for viruses. Made a huge difference for us.

  29. Gigi says

    Here’s a crazy idea– What if you catch colds because your immune system is low therefore your cold “susceptibility” is high? I used to be a “Rx” person too, but I’ve started researching on the “natural healing” stuff when my daughter was diagnosed with eczema/allergies/asthma. Airborne works– in the way that it boosts up your immune system to help your body fight the cold. But, since our bodies are different, there are different natural boosters that work for each person. I give my daughter an extra dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Sambucus (it’s a mixture of elderberry, echinacea and bee propolis) to fight off colds since she’s in daycare. For earaches, there’s this wonderful stuff called “Mullein Oil” that yo can get at whole foods– and you don’t need to put your child on Antibiotics, just a few drops in the ear 2-3 times a day until they stop tugging. And, they will.