Washing hands better than vitamins for cold prevention

Many people take vitamin C tablets as a precautionary measure to prevent infection against colds and flu. But past research has shown that vitamin supplements do not provide nearly as much protection as other measures, such as frequently washing your hands. Now, the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care has pulled together the relevant information to help us separate the myths from the facts.

The authors of a new guide say many people overestimate the benefits of vitamin C and other antioxidants. For years it was believed that taking vitamin C supplements not only provided protection against colds, but also against cancer, thereby helping people to live longer. “Not only is there no proof that some antioxidants prolong life, but there is some evidence that certain products may even lead to earlier death”, says Professor Peter Sawicki, the Institute’s Director.

Professor Sawicki says there are many simple but effective ways to lower the risk of respiratory infections. These include frequently washing your hands with normal soap and water, and not touching your face with your hands. People who already have a respiratory infection can stop it from spreading by throwing away tissues immediately after using them and not shaking hands with other people.