The Truth About Airborne


No one likes getting sick, especially when your to-do list stretches a mile long with papers to write, exams to study for, and classes to attend. The fear of catching a cold, or even worse the flu, drives many to take supplements as a preventative measure to stay healthy.

One very popular over-the-counter option that people use to prevent the common cold is the dietary supplement Airborne. Airborne products contain a blend of herbal extracts, amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, and an array of vitamins and minerals, including but not limited to, vitamin C, A, E, zinc, selenium, and potassium. Airborne claims to boost the immune system and prevent you from getting sick, particularly in crowded situations such as a classroom or airplane. While it certainly sounds like this combination of robust ingredients would swiftly wipe out any invading virus or bacteria in the blink of an eye, does it actually prevent you from getting sick?

Created in the early 1990’s by a teacher with the hopes of keeping her students healthy, word of this magical product quickly spread, and soon Airborne products were on the shelves of every drugstore in America. Unfortunately, this wonder supplement is not exactly the answer to our cold fighting prayers and there have been no scientific studies to support the claims that Airborne can prevent the common cold. In fact, in 2008 the company underwent a class action lawsuit for false advertising. They were fined millions of dollars and forced to change their product packaging and advertising message.

While there is no magic bullet to prevent the cold and flu, don’t give up just yet. Multiple studies have shown the positive effects of zinc and its role in building a strong immune system to fight future illnesses. In fact, recent reviews concluded that taking a zinc lozenge can shorten the length of a cold by one day while also reducing the severity of common cold symptoms. For best results, take a zinc lozenge within 24 hours of the first sign of symptoms.

Of course, we have all heard time and again the classic practices that help keep us healthy over the cold and flu season; wash your hands, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and get your rest! Over and above anything else, these are truly the best methods to keep you going strong all semester long.

Ashley Russo is a first year graduate student at Syracuse University working on a master’s degree in nutrition science and dietetics. She plans to become a registered dietitian specializing in oncology nutrition.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Goodman

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