By Dr. Peter Kadile

Dr. Kadile, I know antibiotics don’t work against the common cold, but is there anything I can take that would make a cold go away faster? – Jill, La Quinta

Jill, you are correct, antibiotics do not work against the common cold and that includes a Zpack.

Vitamin C has demonstrated antiviral effects and plays a role in immune system function. Most studies have shown that treatment with large doses of vitamin C at the first sign of a cold reduced the duration and severity of symptoms. I generally recommend supplementing with vitamin C 6,000-10,000mg a day at the first sign of a cold.

Vitamin A plays a role in immune system function. In a study involving 147 preschool children, the group that received 1,500IU/day of vitamin A for 11 months had 19% lower incidence of respiratory infections compared to the placebo group.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune system function. Most people who develop respiratory infections have low levels of vitamin D. I have observed fewer incidences of colds in patients when they are regularly supplementing with vitamin D 5,000IU a day. Taking higher doses at the first signs of a cold may abort the cold or decrease the severity.

The best chance of aborting or shortening the duration and severity of a cold is to start supplementing at the first sign of a cold. I recommend high doses of vitamin C (6,000-10,00mg/day) and vitamin D (10,000-20,000IU/day) at the first signs of a cold (fatigue, scratchy throat, sniffles). Take the supplements for the first 1-2 days. Along with adequate rest and hydration, you may be able to abort the development of more severe cold symptoms or shorten its duration.

Dear Dr. Kadile, When I have a cold and my mucus turns green, is that a sign that I need antibiotics? – Carol, Rancho Mirage

Carol, this subject regarding the color of one’s mucus or phlegm determining the need for antibiotics is another one of the most frustrating medical myths primary care physicians encounter in their practices. Every cold and flu season, I deal with this type of question quite frequently in my own practice.

When you have cold symptoms and blow your nose or cough up phlegm that is green, this does not mean you have a bacterial infection which would need antibiotics. The green color comes from enzymes released by your white blood cells used to fight off the infection. When your sinuses are clogged during a cold, the mucus in the sinuses will stagnate and appear green when you sneeze or blow your nose.

The bottom line is that green mucus or phlegm does not mean you need antibiotics.