Vitamin C and the common winter cold

Canadian winters are known to be brutally cold and are often accompanied by a brutal cold. The lovely symptoms include cough, fever, and sore throat to name a few. Colds can stick around up to 10 days, and may make your life miserable. I’m sure you’ve all heard someone at some point mention vitamin C in the context of prevention/treatment. The theory is that since vitamin C is an antioxidant it would reduce oxidative stress when you encounter an infection – but does science offer any proof to this?

I came across a great review paper published by Hemilä and Chalker (2010), and their objective was to determine if vitamin C intake reduced the length, severity (symptom scoring/days kept indoors), or the number of colds when used before or after cold symptoms

To summarize, the results are as follows:

There was no effect on the number of colds. The duration of the cold was reduced, with a greater effect in children, only when taken prior to symptoms. The severity of the cold was not affected by vitamin C

Will vitamin C help you with your cold? Probably not. Should you continuously take vitamin C to reduce potential duration? I say if it’s vitamin C from food, why not- there are a lot of other benefits from doing this. Unfortunately these studies did not have vitamin C administered from food, which is the best way to get your vitamins.

Put a lemon in your water occasionally, won’t get rid of your cold but it will make drinking water a lot tastier!

-Stay toasty


H, Hemilä and Chalker E. “Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2010).