While there may not be a cure for the common cold, plenty of parents have come up with their own ways of stopping the sniffles. But a new survey may prove that those popular prevention methods aren’t as effective as people think.
According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 70 percent of parents use “folklore strategies” to protect their children from colds. These are non-science-based tricks that have likely been passed down from previous generations, like not going outside with wet hair.
The University of Michigan survey, which polled 1,119 American parents who have children between the ages of five and 12 years old, also found that 51 percent of parents give their kids over-the-counter vitamins or supplements that are advertised to prevent colds, despite the fact that there is no compelling evidence that these actually work.
“It’s important for parents to understand which cold prevention strategies are evidence-based,” explained co-director of the poll Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “While some methods are very effective in preventing children from catching a cold, others have not been shown to actually make any difference.”
There is some good news, though. The survey results showed that nearly all of the parents (99 percent) encouraged good personal hygiene habits, like washing their hands frequently and not sharing drinks, to stop their children from getting sick.
“This approach is consistent with the science of how colds usually spread,” the report reads, adding that the most common way for the cold virus to spread from one person to another is through mucous droplets. These can be transmitted via direct contact with the sick person or through the air.
Researchers also advise parents that “the best strategy is for parents to focus their preventive efforts on decreasing the spread of the cold viruses through strong attention to hand washing and avoiding direct contact of people with colds.”