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Vitamin C and colds

Popular belief is that vitamin C can cure the common cold. However, research about this claim is conflicting.

Although not fully proven, large doses of vitamin C may help reduce how long a cold lasts. They do not protect against getting a cold. Vitamin C may also be helpful for those exposed to brief periods of severe or extreme physical activity.

The likelihood of success may vary from person to person. Some people improve, while others do not. Taking 1000 to 2000 mg per day can be safely tried by most people. Taking too much can cause stomach upset.

People with kidney disease should NOT take vitamin C supplements.

Large doses of vitamin C supplementation are not recommended during pregnancy.

A balanced diet almost always provides the required vitamin and minerals for the day.

Alternative Names

Colds and vitamin C

References

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements website. Fact sheet for health professionals: vitamin C. www.ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/. Updated December 10, 2019. Accessed January 16, 2020.

Redel H, Polsky B. Nutrition, immunity, and infection. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 11.

Shah D, Sachdev HPS. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency and excess. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 63.

Review Date 1/23/2020

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.