Every once in a while I get the urge to do a posting that might actually help someone somewhere, and this is one of those times. You've probably heard that vitamin C can help you avoid a cold, or at least lessen the severity. While the results of controlled studies are mixed at best (I tend to think they're doing it wrong), I can tell you it works wonders for me and for friends I've encouraged to try it.
Here's what I've found is the key: you must start taking vitamin C the moment you suspect that you're about to get a cold. You know that little catch in your throat you get a day or so before you even have a sore throat? The one you desperately try to convince yourself is really nothing? Yeah—right then. You've got to set aside the denial and instantly start in with the C. If you wait until you've got full-blown cold symptoms it's too late.
So how much? I start out with 2000mg every hour for three hours and then 1000mg every hour after that for a day or more. I'll also often do another 2000mg dose when I'm going to bed and when I wake up in the middle of the night, to give my system a boost while I'm sleeping. You can expect some gastric excitement at these levels (15-20,000mg or so a day, depending on how careful you are about keeping up with it), but it's more entertaining than anything else and you won't be doing it for long—at some point in the second day I typically scale it back to just a few 1000mg doses, since by that time the die seems to be cast.
What kind of results can you expect? I've found that if I felt I was headed for a minor cold I can often head it off entirely—I just don't get sick. If I think I've gotten a more serious bug (based on the symptoms of the person I think I've gotten it from or the strength of the initial hints of symptoms I see in myself), I may still end up getting sick, but the symptoms are far less serious when I do. I haven't had a truly miserable cold since I've been doing the vitamin C trick; the last time I got sick I had just a mild sore throat one day and some fairly benign coughing, and never even had a runny nose.
One downside is that while you can escape minor colds, you'll often find that your body can't entirely knock out the tougher ones, so instead of being miserably sick for a few days you'll feel like you're at 95% for as much as a few weeks. Sometimes in those situations I feel like I'd be better off just having the damn cold and getting it over with, but...not really. Another downside is that I find I have to rest just as though I'd gotten the cold (i.e., avoiding the cold doesn't mean I can go for a 10-mile hike)—which again sometimes makes me wonder if it's worth it. But I'd rather be resting relatively comfortably by choice than being forced to do it because I'm wracked by violent coughing and sneezing fits.
Is there any danger? It does concern me to take doses this big, but supposedly your body will just eliminate whatever it doesn't use. If you read up on vitamin C toxicity you'll see that it may cause kidney stones and other long-term issues, but problems like these have been observed only very rarely and the connection is inconclusive (Pauling supposedly took tens of thousands of milligrams of vitamin C all the time without apparent ill effects). Still, I do drink lots of water when I'm doing it, and I also try to taper off as soon as I feel it's not making a major difference anymore.
You can decide for yourself if it's worth the risk (and compare that to the side effects of other medicines you might take...), and if your retinas detach or your brain explodes don't even think about suing me for it. But the reason I'm posting about this is that I'm in the process right this very moment of using vitamin C to prevent myself from getting a serious cold, and (as usual) it's helping immensely. So given that it's cold season, I thought I'd spread the love to y'all as well.