What can I do to help my immune system fight against colds/flu since Zicam is no longer available?
October 3, 2009 12:47 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to help my immune system fight against colds/flu since Zicam is no longer available?

I have successfully used Zicam nose swabs for many years to ward off bugs, and now that it's no longer available, are there any other alternatives that actually work?

Google searches for alternatives lead me to using Sage, which isn't the same thing at all...
posted by spacelux to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe really lame, but working in a hospital you learn one thing: wash your hands. All the time. Germs on your hands can transmit to others very easily, including yourself. Get a flu shot. Avoid sick people. The fundamentals are really the best way to avoid illness.
posted by nursegracer at 1:46 AM on October 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

I like the packets of Vitamin C I can buy at the drugstore (Walgreens). Maybe it's all in my mind but drinking 1000 mg of vitamin C mixed with water a couple times a day makes me feel much better.
posted by bendy at 1:47 AM on October 3, 2009

Vitamin C doesn't work. One small trial suggests garlic.

Hand washing and plenty of rest.
posted by gramcracker at 2:53 AM on October 3, 2009

I suggest you retain whatever sense of smell you have left and follow the advice of others to wash your hands and taking rest when you feel the symptoms. Zicam or anything else doesnt 'potentiate' your immune system.
posted by london302 at 3:27 AM on October 3, 2009

I've heard oregano oil works ( a drop a day ).

Cold Fx, perhaps.

A neti pot might achieve the same effect as the zicam.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:02 AM on October 3, 2009

The oldest tricks in the book: wash your hands more frequently than you think you should, get enough sleep, drink lots of water, exercise, and eat well. Sorry. Those really are the best things to do.
posted by cooker girl at 5:08 AM on October 3, 2009

Wash (your hands), drink (ample fluids), rest (your bod). Everything else is mostly placebo effect.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:10 AM on October 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Zicam is not available because it didn't really work and was dangerous. Vitamin C has zero effect on a cold once you've got it, and not likely any deterrent value, no matter what BS people tell you. Echinacea doesn't work. No herbs work.

A cold is a virus. You avoid it by avoiding infection, washing your hands, etc. Once you have it, you've got it for a few days and nothing will shorten the course of it much.

If there were an effective cure for the common cold, you'd know about it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:11 AM on October 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Get plenty of sleep. Seriously. People who sleep less than seven hours a night are significantly more likely to get sick when exposed to cold virus.
posted by OmieWise at 5:34 AM on October 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Drink orange juice.
posted by gjc at 5:41 AM on October 3, 2009

Zicam did work. I used it for years and my sense of smell was not affected, but I did nip many a cold in the bud. The trick is to use a very small amount of it, a thin film on the inside of the tips of the nostrils. Anybody know if Zicam type preps are available in other countries? Like internet order-able?

Alternatively, I'm thinking of grinding up zinc gluconate tablets and mixing them into aloe vera gel as a Zicam substitute.

One thing I found pretty effective before Zicam was taking a gram of (preferrably chewable) vitamin C every hour at the first sign of a cold.
posted by telstar at 5:43 AM on October 3, 2009

just take the zinc tabs found in the vitamin aisle. same ingredient as in zicam, cold-eze etc.... always works for me.
posted by chasles at 5:56 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, I'm thinking of grinding up zinc gluconate tablets and mixing them into aloe vera gel as a Zicam substitute.

IANAD, but this sounds very dangerous. I would at least discuss the idea with an actual doctor before trying it. And look into studies about the efficacy of Zicam.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:20 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

For cold/flu prevention, make sure you're getting adequate vitamin D, either from sun exposure or supplements. Once you're sick, though, it doesn't seem to do much.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:27 AM on October 3, 2009

Seconding Cold FX.
posted by meerkatty at 7:09 AM on October 3, 2009

Airborne. No proof, but it works for me - likely the placebo effect, but I don't care. There were issues with the tablets having potentially toxic amounts of vitamin A, but the formula and recommended dose interval have been changed to address this.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 8:18 AM on October 3, 2009

I like Cold-EEZE (or off-brand) zinc drops.
posted by radioamy at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2009

Get a large water bottle and get into the habit of filling it and carrying it with you during the day so that you'll remember to drink enough. I find that I tend to catch more colds when I get slack about staying hydrated. YMMV.
posted by corey flood at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is no cure for the common cold... But there is such a thing as a compromised immune system and a less compromised one. It stands to reason that if some factors contribute to a lowered immune system, others would lead to a strong immune system. We all know people who have gone 10 years without a sniffle, and others that get every bug that comes along. Since you're not asking for double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeatable data, I'll give you my personal anecdotes of what I feel has worked for me.

- Zicam really, really seemed to help, so I feel your pain.
- Airborne works okay; but the main value my friends and I have noticed is "feeling better" for a few hours at a time. That's enough for me to keep using it when I feel crummy.
- Daily Multivitamin with enough zinc should help.
- Healthy diet/moderate exercise... yadda yadda yadda...
- Zinc lozenges I've had friends that swear by them, but they make me nauseous.
- Neti Pot Highly recommended, both as a preventative and while you're sick. I use the NeilMed Sinus Rinse, and I feel that alone has been really effective.
- Dr. Weil's Immune Support Formula I swear by it. (It has astragalus and Chinese mushrooms, so any similar formula should also help.) It's mild and works great if taken preventatively over the cold season; it also helps me recover faster. It does NOT work well if you're already sick. Then again not much does.

Last but not least, GET YOUR FLU SHOT. All of them. Don't fuck around with the Flu, especially this year. If you're young and healthy and wanna risk it, I've had good success with Oscillo in the past. But it's pricey and no guarantee...
If you DO get the Flu, have your doctor call in Tamiflu ASAP. Don't fuck around with the Flu.

** This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
posted by for_serious at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vitamin D3, through tanning without sunblock and supplementation.

Cannell and Vieth have argued it is the 'seasonal stimulus' for influenza proposed by Hope-Simpson. "Epidemic influenza and vitamin D" fulltext here.

Fairly accurate home tests for serum 25(OH)D from dried blood spots are fairly accurate and available for $40.
posted by zentrification at 10:14 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

OH! Almost forgot, Probiotics.

This includes,
- Yogurt with at least a billion live active cultures per serving, such as YoPlus.
- Drinks such as Yakult or BioK
- Supplements that guarantee a minimum amount of live bacteria such as Culturelle, Reuteri, or Align.

Caveat, these are all kinda pricey. If you're broke and committed, get a yogurt maker and make your own for pennies. Homemade yogurt tastes freaking awesome too.
posted by for_serious at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2009

Oh, and the NHANES data suggests vitamin d levels protect against upper respiratory tract infections.
posted by zentrification at 10:26 AM on October 3, 2009

I recommend ColdFX.

Anytime I get a cold, it almost always occurs in the same stages (sore throat on the first day, stuffy the next 2 days, runny nose the 4th day, etc.). I was starting to come down with a cold during exams and decided to give ColdFX a shot. It cut down the recovery time by half.

Since then I've taken one or two tablets whenever I feel a cold coming on and haven't had a cold since (about a year -- I usually get 2-3 colds a year). This is by no means conclusive results, but I'd say it's worth a try at least.
posted by Kippersoft at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't recommend what I used to use, so I can't really help here. The stuff was disgusting, made with a variety of herbs and a healthy dose of vodka, but the mayo clinic has something interesting to say about the first stages of a cold and the most effective way to cut down the time you have a cold - hydrogen peroxide. They also mention that vitamin C and echinacea probably don't hurt to try.

The hydrogen peroxide thing... I can't find the link I used to have for that, so treat that as rumor unless you can verify it. They did a study, but again, don't take my word for it. I currently have a cold and can't find the article.
posted by neewom at 11:33 AM on October 3, 2009

What works for me (and most of my family) is to get a good amount of sleep, eat fairly healthily, and keep hydrated. Running yourself into the ground is a fantastic way to pick up all sorts of icky problems.
I've been able to head off colds that I start to feel coming on this way too, but prevention is best.
posted by sperose at 11:47 AM on October 3, 2009

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I'm already very fond of water, sleep, and washing my hands too much, it's just that sometimes those don't work well enough to keep the bugs away.

Looks like I'll be back in the trial and error sector for a while, but it looks like there's some good advice here. Thanks again to all for the input! It is much appreciated. :)
posted by spacelux at 11:34 PM on October 3, 2009

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