Is Your Cold Preventing Strategy Actually Helping Your Kid?

Is Your Cold Preventing Strategy Actually Helping Your Kid?

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Jan 21 2019 3:54 PM
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  • More than half the parents follow “folklore” based cold preventing strategies to protect their kids such as giving vitamin supplements or asking them not to go outside, which are unsupported by science
  • Common cold is perhaps the most common illness experienced by school children; on an average school going kids suffer at least three to six episodes per year with some lasting up to two weeks
  • It is important for parents to know which cold prevention strategies actually work and are effective based on scientific evidence and those which may actually not be making any difference
Many parents believe and continue to use cold prevention measures in their kids such as asking them to stay indoors, avoid going out with wet hair or giving them over the counter vitamin supplements that are based on ‘folklore advice’, which are not backed by scientific evidence. These were the findings of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan.


Unscientific Cold Prevention Strategies - What National Poll Says

  • About 51 percent parents administer over the counter vitamins and other supplements despite no scientific evidence that they are effective
  • Over 70 percent parents follow folklore based advice such as telling their children to stay indoors or avoid going outdoors when their hair is wet
The findings of the poll suggest that a majority of parents still follow unscientific precautions to protect their children from catching a cold.

Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., co-director of the poll and a pediatrician at Mott, said: “Many parents are using supplements and vitamins not proven to be effective in preventing colds and that are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These are products that may be heavily advertised and commonly used but none have been independently shown to have any definitive effect on cold prevention."

The team feels that these folklore methods were probably passed down from one generation to the next over a long time even before it was proved that germs cause Common cold and similar illnesses.

Good News - Most Parents Do Follow Evidence-based Cold Prevention Methods

The good news is that despite following certain non-evidence based methods to prevent cold, nearly all parents follow scientifically proven measures to protect their little ones from cold and illness. The key findings included the following:
  • About 99 percent of parents teach their children good personal hygienic measures such as:
    • Encouraging them to wash their hands often
    • Avoid putting their fingers into the nose or mouth
    • Telling them not to share their utensils and other stuff with others
  • About 87 percent parents encouraged their kids to stay away from persons who are sick
  • Nearly 64 percent of parents reported they discouraged sick friends or relatives from hugging or kissing their kids
  • About 60 percent parents reported they would decide to skip a play date if other children who came were not well
  • Nearly a third of parents said they avoided going to the playground in the cold season
  • Nearly 84 percent parents said they sanitized the areas and surfaces used by their kids by washing or cleaning regularly
Freed says, "The positive news is that the majority of parents do follow evidence-based recommendations to avoid catching or spreading the common cold and other illnesses.”


How Does Common Cold Spread?

Common cold is caused by viruses and spreads by close contact with a sick person, and inhalation of droplets suspended in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching droplets and infected secretions on surfaces such as tables, door handles, toys and faucets.



All parents hope to keep their kids healthy and free from illness, especially common cold. While doing so it is important to know and follow those cold preventing measures that are actually backed by evidence and science rather than folklore measures that may not be really beneficial.

  1. Preventing colds in children: Following the evidence? - (