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Does Airborne prevent you from getting a cold?


 Leslie Nash


September 24, 2007





About the product:


Airborne is an herbal product that is found next to the cold medicines in almost every store that sells cold medicines.  It is a tablet that is to be dissolved in water and then drank.  Its purpose is to boost an adult’s immune system and prevent him/her from getting sick when in crowded situations, such as a classrooms or airplanes.  Airborne should be taken a day or two before entering crowding places where others might be sick and spreading germs.  It is recommended “not to take a multi vitamin on the same days that you take Airborne and the recommended dosage for Airborne is to take one tablet every 3-4 hours, without exceeding 3 doses in a day” (    Airborne contains several vitamins and herbal extracts, but the two ingredients with the highest number of milligrams are Vitamin C and Echinacea.


Does Vitamin C prevent a cold?   



            Vitamin C supplements are a common non-medicinal treatment for a cold.  They are also often taken to prevent catching a cold.  Douglas, Chalker, and Treacy (2000) reviewed published trials (both randomized and non randomized) of vitamin C taken to prevent or cure the common cold. The results found that the consumption of vitamin C  in doses as high as 1,000 mg daily had no consistent beneficial effect on the incidence of the common cold.  However, taking vitamin C daily or taking it after the onset of cold symptoms both showed a reduction in cold symptoms ranging from -.07% to 39%, with larger doses of vitamin C producing greater benefits than lower doses. 

Douglas, Hemilia, Chalker, and Treacy (2007) reviewed papers from Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, and EMBASE that examined the effectiveness of vitamin C for preventing the common cold.  Only papers whose subjects consumed a dose of 200 mg a day or greater and had a placebo comparison were used.  It was found that daily consumption of vitamin C supplements failed to reduce the incidence of colds in the normal population.  However, they found that a large trial that took 8,000 mg of vitamin C after the onset of a cold found a decrease in the duration and severity of its symptoms.

Hemilia (1999) analyzed 23 studies on the effectiveness of daily vitamin C supplements in decreasing the effectiveness and severity and cold symptoms.  He found that vitamin C has a greater benefit for children than adults, and the higher the concentration taken, the greater the benefit.  Adults who consumed 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily had a 6% decrease in cold duration, whereas children who consumed 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily had a 26% decrease (four times higher).


How does this relate to the effectiveness of Airborne?


Vitamin C was found to only be effective in reducing cold symptoms after the onset of a cold, and not in preventing the incidence of a cold.  Therefore the high concentration of vitamin C in Airborne (1,000mg) does not help to prevent catching a cold.  Does this concentration of vitamin C help to lessen the duration and severity of cold symptoms?  According to the studies above, vitamin C supplements of greater than or equal to 2,000 mg have little to no effect on cold symptoms.  The only dosage found to have a significant effect in reducing the duration and severity of cold symptoms was the consumption of 8,000 mg.  According to the Airborne instructions, an adult is not to exceed taking 3 tablets per day.  Each tablet contains 1,000mg vitamin C.  You are also advised not to take any vitamin supplements while taking Airborne.  This means that while one is on Airborne he or she is consuming a maximum of 3,000 mg of vitamin C daily, which produces little or no effect in the treatment of cold symptoms, particularly in adults.


Does Echinacea prevent a cold?


Linde, Barrett, Wolkart, Bauer, and Melchart (2000) reviewed randomized control trials that compared:  the effectiveness of Echinacea for treatment of cold symptoms to no treatment, if Echinacea is more effective than a placebo in the treatment of cold symptoms, and the effectiveness of Echinacea in preventing the incidence of a cold.  Sixteen trials comprised of 19 comparisons of an Echinacea group with a placebo group, 2 comparisons of an Echinacea group and no treatment, and one comparison of an Echinacea group and the use of another herb were reviewed.  Of these, there were three comparisons that examined the effectiveness of Echinacea in preventing a cold and 19 that examined the effectiveness of Echinacea in the treatment of a cold.  These comparisons showed that consumption of Echinacea had no effect on the prevention of incidences of a cold, whereas they showed a considerable effect of Echinacea on the treatment of a cold.




The purpose of Airborne is to boost one’s immune system and prevent them from getting sick, such as from getting a cold.  It is directed to take Airborne 1-2 days prior to exposure to crowded places (  After researching the main ingredients in Airborne (vitamin C and Echinacea) in the prevention of colds, however, it does not seem to be an effective prevention for the incidence of colds.  Research does show that taking Airborne may help to reduce the duration and severity of colds.  However, it is inconclusive whether the recommended doses of Airborne tablets contains a high enough percentage of vitamin C to make a significant reduction of symptoms.  Finally, there is little to no evidence on the other, smaller ingredients in Airborne.  Until the effects of these other vitamins and herbs, and how their interaction with each other affects the incidence of colds are further researched, one cannot deduce with complete certainty that Airborne does not do as it claims in preventing the incidence of colds.





Douglas, R. M., Chalker, E. B., and Treacy, B. (2004). Vitamin c for treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2.

Douglas, R. M., Hemilia, H., Chalker, E., and Treacy, B. (2007). Vitamin c for preventing and treating common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3.

Hemilia, H. (1999). Vitamin c supplementation and common cold symptoms:  factors affecting the magnitude of the benefit. Medical Hypotheses, 52, 171-178.

Linde, K., Barrett, B., Wolkart, K., Bauer, R., and Melchart, D. (2006). Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1


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