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Truth in advertising
January 16, 2007 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Is Airborne science or snake oil ? The official website is flashy, but short on empirical evidence, and even admits that there is "no cure" for the common cold. The first doubts were from ABC News. Then David Cowan blogged about it. Now Michael Shermer from the Scientific American, and publisher of Skeptic weighs in an article called Airborne Baloney
posted by lobstah (165 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
eh, should have been weighs in "with" an article
posted by lobstah at 8:46 AM on January 16, 2007


Well, everyone at my gym uses it and raves about it.

Me, I stick to saline nose spray.
posted by konolia at 8:49 AM on January 16, 2007


I'm reminded of the tiger-protection rock from The Simpsons...
posted by clevershark at 8:50 AM on January 16, 2007


Whenever I start feeling a bit under the weather, I just head over to my local phlebotomist for a good leeching. Works every time!
posted by billysumday at 8:53 AM on January 16, 2007


Airborne is junk.

Cold-FX, now THAT STUFF... is junk with Don Cherry in its ads.

Also, Airborn is an incredible book. Like, amazing incredible.
posted by GuyZero at 8:53 AM on January 16, 2007


No doubt that's because those who use it and catch a cold or flu end up staying at home rather than going to the gym to rave about it.
posted by edd at 8:54 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the makers of head-on to come up with a hemroid cure.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


I take it and like it. See what you people don't understand is that germs cause you to get sick, but vitamins kill germs. You get enough vitamins to grow from fruits and vegetables, but when you are sick you need lots of vitamins to kill the germs that are making you sick. That is what airborne is for. It is full of vitamins which go in your body and kill the germs, so that you aren't sick anymore. It is called science people. Look it up. I also like the pictures on the box. Cartoons are funny.
posted by ND¢ at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


"It is called science people"

You mean SCIENCE!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:59 AM on January 16, 2007


Airborne, invented by a school teacher.

When I saw that on the box, I knew the probability of snake oil was so high, it was not even worth investigating.

I'm sure many people believe Airborne does something for them: controlled study shows otherwise.

(And you can actually end up with a harmful dose of Vitamin A by taking Airborne).
posted by teece at 9:00 AM on January 16, 2007


I'm totally gullible, like, homeopathy gullible, and Airborne doesn't do shit for me. Emergen-C on the other hand, is the nectar of the gods.
posted by padraigin at 9:02 AM on January 16, 2007


For posterity: anything you by that says this on the box:

"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Has a very high likelihood of being snake oil. Indeed, if it is not snake oil, it'd be damn surprising, especially if it purports to fix something (prevents a cold, makes you lose weight, improves concentration, etc., etc.).

There is the extremely unlikely possibility that such products do actually fix something, and simply have not been proven to do so in controlled studies, but you're playing the lottery there, at best.
posted by teece at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2007


Two words: Mickey Rooney.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:08 AM on January 16, 2007


Ok yeah, so "proper nouns"... not really "words."
posted by miss lynnster at 9:09 AM on January 16, 2007


Second Emergen-C. It is truly the nectar of the gods.
posted by orangemiles at 9:10 AM on January 16, 2007


I tried it once. I didn't read the package at all. I had no idea that I was supposed to put it in water so I just popped it in my mouth like a lozenge. Like giving an Alka-Seltzer to a sea gull, I almost died a very foamy death.
posted by peeedro at 9:10 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hah...I wish knew about that Mickey Rooney ad, I would have linked that for sure !
posted by lobstah at 9:10 AM on January 16, 2007


teece: controlled study shows otherwise

Do you have a link to that study?

Airborne seems pretty similar to the effervescent vitamin tabs that doctors here in Austria often prescribe to people with colds. I figure the doctors know that there's not much that can be done to counter a cold, and they prescribe the tabs as a bit of a placebo, mostly to make patients feel like their complaints are being taken seriously.
posted by syzygy at 9:11 AM on January 16, 2007


I started using it about a year ago. Didn't think it would do anything much. Seems to have worked...

Eh, if it doesn't work, at least I'm killing my liver with the overdose of vitamin A
posted by MildlyDisturbed at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2007


Airborne is just repackaged vitamins and herbs. If there's any reason to believe the individual components work in strengthening the immune system, then Airborne should work just as well. That being said, I tried it for the first time this year, hard to say whether it did anything or not.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2007


You know who else would have liked airborne - Hitler.
posted by 2sheets at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Having a cold remedy invented by a teacher is about as sensible as having tires invented by a traffic cop.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the quote: "The common cold lasts a week if you treat it, and seven days if you don't."
posted by amyms at 9:16 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, research published in peer-reviewed journals supports Cold-FX's efficacy, so I wouldn't lump it in with complete junk like Airborne. I wouldn't call it a cure-all, but it does seem to make colds briefer and milder.

Direct links to PubMed abstracts:

Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 2004


Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2005

Anecdotally, I haven't had a full-fledged cold in over 2 years. If I pop the required number of capsules when I first notice sniffles, sneezing or a sore throat, my symptoms don't get any worse and they're gone by the end of the day. The research suggests that this is a fairly common outcome.
posted by maudlin at 9:17 AM on January 16, 2007


I'll stick to my leeches, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
posted by The Straightener at 9:17 AM on January 16, 2007


syzygy: sorry, I don't mean controlled studies of Airborne, but rather controlled studies of it's ingredients.

It's nothing special. It only contains one ingredient that's known to have any effect on the common cold at all: Vitamin C. That can lessen the severity of colds some of the time for some people (it's not the miracle cure that many like to think it is, but there is actual evidence that it helps a bit sometimes).

It'd be a harmless placebo if it were, you know, not marketed by fraudsters, and didn't give you a dosage of Vitamin A that is unsafe, if taken as "directed."

As it is, it's a confidence game: you can get the same (rather limited) effect for much cheaper elsewhere.
posted by teece at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2007


Airborne! Apply directly to the trashcan.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2007


Having a cold remedy invented by a teacher is about as sensible as having tires invented by a traffic cop.

Why? Regular people can't invent stuff?
posted by spicynuts at 9:20 AM on January 16, 2007


Sorry, here's the correct CMAJ link.
posted by maudlin at 9:20 AM on January 16, 2007


Why? Regular people can't invent stuff?

That's a bit disingenuous, I think. The implication is that teachers are somehow more qualified to deal with colds because schoolkids get and spread them often.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:23 AM on January 16, 2007


Sums up "Airborne" nicely.
posted by basicchannel at 9:25 AM on January 16, 2007


I've always thought that the beauty to Airborne is that you can't prove a negative.

I took Airborne before a flight, and didn't get sick.
Therefore, Airborne works!
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2007


The "Airborne will cure/prevent your cold" myth is silly, but not as old or pervasive as the "vitamin C will cure/prevent your cold" myth. It's been proven that vitamin C gives you energy, but not much else; it's understandable that people mistake boosts in energy for healing, and even that a boost in energy might promote healing, but it's the same old tales that we should've learned are false years ago.
posted by koeselitz at 9:27 AM on January 16, 2007


Upon review, several Mefites have beaten me to the joke :(.
posted by basicchannel at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2007


Vitamin C can lessen duration of the common cold in a lot of people - but you need to take 2 grams / day to get the effect (according to the Natural Medicine's Comprehensive Database). Zinc can also shorten the duration of the common cold, but you have to take it pretty much incessantly from the time you have symptoms to a few days after you stop having symptoms. There's a copy of a study of zinc's efficacy on the Zicam web site. I think Airborne is overpriced - I'd rather take the zinc and C on their own, since it's cheaper that way, and you can take enough for it to be effective.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:31 AM on January 16, 2007


Airborne! Apply directly to the trashcan.
hah!

Add me to the list of Cold-fx users though.
posted by jeffmik at 9:31 AM on January 16, 2007


Thanks for the clarification, teece. This story reminds me of an Atlantic Monthly article which talked about the power of placebos (Better Living Through the Placebo Effect - 00.10 - alas, only available to subscribers now).

The author's brother was a doctor who didn't want to discuss with the author any of the studies showing that zinc lozenges were ineffective at fighting colds. The doctor felt that simply believing that the lozenges were effective actually made them so, if only slightly.
posted by syzygy at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2007


I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago when I was beginning to come down with something bad, really bad...I'm talkin' the dark terrrible BAD you feel when you can swear the flu bug your dealing with is on speaking terms with the devil and it is winding up to do the big nasty on you and I swear Airborbne pulled me back from the darkness. I stand before you a healthy man still on the side of the angels. Amen.

They should make it more apparent on the label that it has huge amounts amount of of the RDA for Vitamen A, as If I was a kid, I probably would've been guzzling that stuff down like crazy as I like fizzy drinks.

On a sidenote a big proponent of vitaman A to fight off colds was William Burroughs.

posted by Skygazer at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2007


See also respectful insolence debunking
posted by lalochezia at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2007


Lately, I take CVS-brand zinc lozenges when I start to feel a cold coming on. I take them as directed, every 3 hours for 36 hours. The only time I've had more than sniffles since trying the zinc was when I'd taken only one or two lozenges, ran out, and didn't buy more. Does this mean zinc "prevents" the common cold? No. But at $4 a course, I'm willing to keep taking it twice a year or so.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2007


Not snakeoil. Snakeoil is actually good for you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:39 AM on January 16, 2007


Best way to keep yourself from getting sick?

Wash your hands. A very simple step that I see many people skipping as they exit the bathroom. Wash your hands with soap & water for at least 15 seconds.

Easiest way to reduce your chances of getting sick. Of course, you could just go about your lives buying whatever $cold_buster product you see on the shelf at Walgreens.
posted by drstein at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2007


Actually, this thread is making me feel like I'm coming down with something...
posted by Skygazer at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2007


"I'm waiting for the makers of head-on to come up with a hemroid cure."

They already do. It's call "FREEDhem", and I'm sure it's every bit as scamtastic as Head-On.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2007


Total baloney, well known, amazing it took the idiots so long to realize they were being had . . . . Really, how stupid do people have to be before they start dying off?
posted by spitbull at 9:52 AM on January 16, 2007


"Apply directly to your head. Or your ass. We can't tell the difference, either."TM
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:52 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


selfmedicating: "Vitamin C can lessen duration of the common cold in a lot of people - but you need to take 2 grams / day to get the effect (according to the Natural Medicine's Comprehensive Database)."

I don't know where the Natural Medicine's Comprehensive Database gets their info, but "lessen duration" is an interesting wording. I've never seen studies that show that; and, on the contrary, there are plenty of studies that show that vitamin C doesn't have the effect people would like to think it does.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2007


Easiest way to reduce your chances of getting sick. Of course, you could just go about your lives buying whatever $cold_buster product you see on the shelf at Walgreens.

Or you could live in filth for three years of college, clean yourself up and realize you haven't been sick in, oh, two years now?
posted by thecaddy at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2007


a waste of time and money
the guys who "tested it" origianlly were exposed as know nothing in league with the company. My wife uses it and I find it easier to say nothing and let her believe it is helping...I have yet to see any item that instantly cures a cold. Most at best might shave off a day or two of sniffling.

I find that eating roasted chestnuts seems to alleviate the symptoms and makes me feel warm all over
posted by Postroad at 10:13 AM on January 16, 2007


Here's a link to a year-old 'blog entry about the stuff in question. I noted that it makes a big deal about the vitamin A in Airborne, yet when I looked at the package on my closet shelf, I didn't see vA listed anywhere in the ingredients. So maybe they changed the formula?

I have a friend who's used it successfully: "Whatever reason -- psychological or physical -- that it works," she told me, "I'll take it over getting sick."

(On preview: I've had a dietitian, a pharmacist, a Navy corpsman, a CCRN and an MD all assure me that no matter how much vitamin C you take, your body metabolizes what it needs and the rest just gets flushed out of your system. YMMV, Linus Pauling.)
posted by pax digita at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2007


the problem with snake oil is, not many people really need to oil a snake.
posted by das_2099 at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2007


and then there are those of us who enjoy watching and listening to the excitement of people sneezing!
http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~kago-usu/KushamiRoom/kushami-E.html
posted by Postroad at 10:19 AM on January 16, 2007


Here's what the National Council Against Health Fraud says.

I think Shermer's quote of Feynman bears repeating... "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool."
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2007


I use Airborne as part of my overall anti-sick attack plan, combined with Cold Reduce and Super Immunity Boosters from Trader Joe's. If it doesn't work then don't tell me because it seems to help me cut down on how long I stay sick and I need all the placebo effect I can get.

das_2099, speak for yourself, my snake needs all the oil you and anyone else are willing to rub into it.
posted by fenriq at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2007


Well, everyone at my gym uses it and raves about it.

At my gym I got guys who rave about Deca-durabolin, Stanozolol, and 4-chlordehydromethyltestosterone.

It's good to keep in mind the sort of things people historically have raved about:

- Everyone used to rave about drinking quicksilver to calm the dwarfs that lived in their stomaches.

- Everyone raves about being cured of their sundry warts and injuries by invisible sky spirits.

- Everyone raves about seeing Elvis in truck-stops through out the mid-west long after his death.

I'd steer clear of things people rave about.
posted by tkchrist at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wash your hands. A very simple step that I see many people skipping as they exit the bathroom.

I have decided to start pointing and hissing, a la Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, whenever I see this now. While it hasn't yet seemed to encourage people to come back and wash their hands, it seems to discourage them from being in the bathroom when I am there so I don't have to see them do it again in the future.
posted by phearlez at 10:42 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


A very simple step that I see many people skipping as they exit the bathroom.

This is very interesting to me, drstein.

At home, you should wash your hands. But what about in a public restroom?

You mention "seeing," so you seem to be talking about public restrooms. First of all, I use the public restroom to urinate. My dick ain't filthy and I don't generally piss on myself, so there is no reason to wash my hands simply because I urinate. I shower every day and wear clean underwear, and don't generally run around with bladder infections.

However, since I'm in the restroom, with a wash basin, I should wash my hands, to kill any germs I may have picked up elsewhere.

BUT: you have to turn the water on to wash your hands. Everyone touches that faucet pre-wash, and they have to touch it again post-wash to turn the water off (ditto the door handle). This faucet may have been touched by dozens or hundreds of people, all of whom touched it pre-wash (and the door handle will have also been touched by some that have not washed at all). So I wonder about the efficacy of washing one's hands in a public restroom. There are enough people with unknown health and hygiene statuses touching the faucets that I tend to think of them as contaminated, and difficult to use for real cleaning.

Personally, I don't wash my hands, and don't touch anything when I'm in a public restroom (I flush with my elbow, and either don't use my hands, or cover them, in order to open the door; as I said, my dick ain't dirty, and I don't generally piss on myself, so the only reason to wash them would have been to clean off germs gathered elsewhere).

Obviously, this is a problem if you work all day long someplace where a public restroom is the only place you'd have to wash your hands. When I worked in an office, I had to wash my hands in the public sinks.

So I wonder: has anyone studied the efficacy of hand-washing in public restrooms, in terms of killing bacteria and viruses that might be on your hands, and make you sick?
posted by teece at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2007


I take it and like it. See what you people don't understand is that germs cause you to get sick, but vitamins kill germs. You get enough vitamins to grow from fruits and vegetables, but when you are sick you need lots of vitamins to kill the germs that are making you sick. That is what airborne is for. It is full of vitamins which go in your body and kill the germs, so that you aren't sick anymore. It is called science people. Look it up. I also like the pictures on the box. Cartoons are funny.
posted by ND¢ at 8:57 AM PST on January 16


I'm dying over here, man. That is pretty much exactly what the proponents of shit like this and homeopathic water and Reiki say.

You know, what's funny is that the gullible and stupid can't be helped. By the time you finally convince them that a product like Airborne is fucking useless, they've already moved on to the next miracle cure their dumbass friends told them about. "But this one is made by a company called HERBOSCIENCE! It has to work!"

Invented by a schoolteacher. Jesus. It's fucking toxic when used as directed. Victoria Knight-McDowell should be in prison.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2007


syzygy, the article can be found here without subscription.
posted by econous at 10:45 AM on January 16, 2007


I need all the placebo effect I can get

Well. Then for $5.99 you can buy TKCure (TM). It will energize you and provide your body with much needed electrolytes. Safe, natural, and effective!

Now I can only produce so much at a time. And the distribution method may seem unorthodox. If you relax you may enjoy it, however. Please don't bite down.
posted by tkchrist at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2007


I've been taking zinc for colds, after reading about some scientific studies that suggested its effective. But a quick google shows that there are some doubts about its effectiveness and safety. Meh.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:51 AM on January 16, 2007


teece your public restroom protocols lead me to ask, are you a manly man with a female brain?
posted by econous at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2007


econous, thanks for the link, exactly as I'd remembered it.
posted by syzygy at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2007


koeselitz: the Natural Medicine's Comprehensive Database (NMCD) gets their info directly from the most recent studies. It's the pharmacist's bible for nutraceuticals (sorry, I hate that word, but that's the term in current use). I'm a pharmacy student so I have a copy of last year's paper version. It's a tome about the size of a phone book with 4-digit footnotes.

Note that "prevent" and "lessen duration" aren't the same thing -- pretty much all the studies agree that Vitamin C doesn't prevent colds. Very few things prevent colds, but lots of things have been shown to lessen duration. Even your quackwatch link refers to a slight reduction in severity of symptoms in many of these Vitamin C studies. And the studies in your link are mostly from the 1970s. More recent studies of Vitamin C do show some modest benefit (1-1.5 day reduction in symptoms).

A google scholar search pulls up lots of info on C reducing severity and duration of colds, like this.

Overall though it's a pretty modest benefit. It works well for me, so I'll keep taking C at the first sign of a cold, but it probably doesn't work as well for everybody and I certainly wouldn't take mega-doses of C every day for life.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2007


teece your public restroom protocols lead me to ask, are you a manly man with a female brain?

Hmm, I don't really understand your question, econous.

I am a man, but a manly man? Nah, I like and write poetry and vagina music. One of those online tests (from the BBC?) did say I had a more typically female brain.

And of course, my calculus would be quite invalid for a woman -- it's a different story down there for women, and I don't pretend to be an expert ;-)
posted by teece at 11:06 AM on January 16, 2007


teece, so how many times a day do you end up washing your hands? What about all the other surfaces you touch? Stair rails and door handles are among the worst offenders, IIRC. Why not wash your hands in the restroom, turn the tap off with a paper towel, throw out the towel, and elbow your way out the door? You'd get added cleanliness without additional exposure to high-use surfaces.
posted by Miko at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2007


One time I was getting sick before a big vacation, so I commenced the Cold-EEZ(tm) therapy after recommendations from numerous friends. The result: No cold. Side effect: An ulcer.
posted by afx114 at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2007


So I wonder: has anyone studied the efficacy of hand-washing in public restrooms, in terms of killing bacteria and viruses that might be on your hands, and make you sick?

Considering the huge problem of hospital-acquired infections, I would say yes, this has been studied up the wazoo, so to speak.

The bathroom is a surprisingly clean place. Not much lives on porcelain or stainless steel. If I were you, teece, I'd reconsider and follow the standard recommendations about washing your hands in a public restroom.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:12 AM on January 16, 2007


my calculus would be quite invalid for a woman

No, your reasons for not needing hand-washing post-urinating are, if anything, even more valid for a woman, since our hands touch nothing but the toilet paper, *and, I suppose, the door lock, though you can use paper for that, too, if you're so inclined).
posted by Miko at 11:12 AM on January 16, 2007


Thanks to my cross country adventure in a tiny metal box filled with many people I am sneezing and blowing my nose even as I read this. That is why I am drinking green tea and eating cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. Tiny, buttery cookies that taste good. I recommend them!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:15 AM on January 16, 2007


BUT: you have to turn the water on to wash your hands. Everyone touches that faucet pre-wash, and they have to touch it again post-wash to turn the water off (ditto the door handle). This faucet may have been touched by dozens or hundreds of people, all of whom touched it pre-wash (and the door handle will have also been touched by some that have not washed at all).

I've thought about this, also. A few observations:

1. Anything you touch pre-wash doesn't count. If you're washing your hands well, you're presumably killing whatever germs you picked up merely by touching the sink.

2. I speculate that washing bestows a sort of "temporary immunity" in that by using soap on your hands, you're actually changing the Ph of your skin such that it makes it less hospitable for germs. I have no proof of this, but it seems possible. If true, this would take care of the post-wash need to touch the faucet, door, etc.

3. You can open the door handle of most bathrooms with fewer than all five of your fingers. I figure if I push (or pull) with only two fingers (and a small portion of the fingers at that), I am minimizing my exposure. It's not like you have to rub all over the door.
posted by Mid at 11:15 AM on January 16, 2007


airborne is homeopathic? duh. who didn't know that?
posted by mrnutty at 11:18 AM on January 16, 2007


Miko, I did the paper-towel thing when I worked in an office.

I don't currently work in an office (work from home). When I head to Target or a movie and have to take a leak, I do not wash my hands, and I doubt I am going to start washing my hands in that situation, I get really annoyed at the bathroom police that think that makes me "dirty."

I strongly suspect that it's better practice to simply avoid touching your face with your hands when you are out it public thus, and leave the hand washing to an environment I control.

I wash my hands a few times throughout the day (always in the shower and when I make dinner, as a bare minimum, but often more. I am not a germ freak; I get dishydrotic excema if I wash my hands a lot, so I actually have to cut down on it anyway, especially if I don't have the stuff I put on my hands after I wash them, to re-hydrate).
posted by teece at 11:19 AM on January 16, 2007


Dr. Germ says that kitchen surfaces, ATMs, TV remotes, and phone receivers are among the filthiest surfaces we encounter on a daily basis.

In the bathrooms, he agrees that the faucets are fairly germy. Here's something from a little seasonal germ article:

Gerba recently completed a survey of 1,000 people -- getting their opinions of where the germs collect in full force, boosting their risk for infection, and compared those opinions to the evidence he's collected in thousands of germ samples.

"Most people consider Port-a-Potties and other public toilets to be the worst places in terms of surface germs. But in reality, they don't even come close to what you'll find on ATM machines, phone receivers, and elevator buttons," he tells WebMD. "That's because those toilets are cleaned and disinfected regularly. But when was the last time a typical phone or buttons on an ATM machine or elevators were?"

Of course, germs are everywhere -- and the key to removing them is with a regular cleaning (soap and clean water) and disinfecting. And because this one-two punch isn't done on many public surfaces, Gerba notes that some of the germiest places you'll likely encounter are....

Airport bathrooms. The problem isn't that airport bathrooms aren't cleaned and disinfected -- they are. "It's that so many people use the bathrooms as soon as they leave the place that janitors just can't keep up with the influx of germs from around the world."
What may surprise you, however, is which part of airport bathrooms are the worst: "The faucet area is the dirtiest and the place that some people worry about most -- the doorknobs -- typically are cleanest," he says.

And the toilet seats? Because they lack the moisture than helps germs thrive, they have fewer germs than faucets. "My advice is to always use the end stalls, whether at the airport or any other public bathroom," says Gerba. "Most people use the middle stalls, so they tend to be the germiest." In his studies, the stall that is farthest left (as you face the stalls) has the fewest germs because it's used less than those on the right end.

posted by Miko at 11:20 AM on January 16, 2007


airborne is homeopathic? duh. who didn't know that?
posted by mrnutty at 11:18 AM PST on January 16


It's actually not homeopathic, from what I remember of the ingredients. For it to be truly homeopathic, you would take the "active" ingredients and dilute them in water until there were actually none in the solution, thereby allowing the "water memory" and "magic" to cure you.

Airborne is just a bunch of shit thrown into a fizzy tablet, none of which will affect the duration or severity of a cold.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2007


maudlin, airborne does not contain American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium.)
posted by free pie at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2007


Additional: I was a little shocked when I read that column by Shermer in SciAm. I mean, how could he not know Airborne was unproven? It says "claims not evaluated by the FDA on the box, just like all the other "cold cures". Then I remembered that just a couple months before in another column he finally decided global warming was real.
There's being a skeptic; then there's being a moron. Two strikes against Shermer.
posted by mrnutty at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2007


My wife just found some on sale for $3. I've used it and it tastes ok....I guess american will put anything in their bodies.
posted by angryinla at 11:27 AM on January 16, 2007


s/homeopathic/fake/g;
posted by mrnutty at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2007


I wash my hands any time I pick up a phone, touch a button, see a ladies bare skin, or hear sombody use naughty words. Oh. And if I see the color red.

If I think there may be germs on a door knob I will cross the street and run back as fast as I can and crash though the wall of the building.

I also keep a gallon jug of Bleach with me at all times. When I come in contact with any common surface I spritz the surface and my self lightly with bleach.

And if I still feel threatened by infection I burn the entire building down.
posted by tkchrist at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's a sucker born every minute, these days perhaps several suckers.
posted by caddis at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2007


PS. Doubt my methods? Scoff if you will but I have not had a cold since the great Chicago fire!
posted by tkchrist at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2007


I find it works well if you follow these steps:

1. Do not purchase the product.
2. Attempt positive thinking at first sign of cold.
3. Once symptoms begin in earnest, fill a small, heavy glass with whisky.
4. Drink & repeat until you are warm all over and have forgetten that you were beginning to feel sick.

I have gotten sick every time I used this method, but I didn't mind much.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2007


Ditto on keyboards and ATMs. I carry antisceptic wipes for public computer terminals at uni.

tkchrist - I'd steer clear of things people rave about.

Ipods? Chocolate?

Hmm. On second thought, I agree. I'm not sure I think that Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
posted by honest knave at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2007


Ditto on keyboards and ATMs. I carry antisceptic wipes for public computer terminals at uni.

tkchrist - I'd steer clear of things people rave about.

Ipods? Chocolate?

Hmm. On second thought, I agree. I'm not sure I think that Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
posted by honest knave at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2007


Everyone touches that faucet pre-wash

I've always wondered why there weren't more foot pedals involved in restrooms.
posted by drezdn at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Re: "If there's any reason to believe the individual components work in strengthening the immune system, then Airborne should work just as well. "

And similar comments upthread:

You cannot directly "strengthen your immune system." That is a bit of metaphorical hyperbole essentially invented by the benificent alt-med industry. The most generous interpretation of the literature on vitamin supplementation suggests that in the absence of a proper diet, supplements can provide some benefit, for some time, at the margin. As for vitamin C and zinc, what we have are tiny or vague or poorly controlled or contradicted studies.

Self-medication is fine, if you mean getting high or taking innocuous substances. Waste your money or get wasted. But there should be better laws (thanks Orrin Hatch, representing the giant supplement companies all, oddly, headquartered in Utah) that forbid companies making claims like the ones Airborne and a thousand others make every day. Some of this shit is seriously dangerous, with no compensating benefit. Other remedies are just stupid, but all that's lost is the suckers' money. The worst effect, though, is the spread of common myths as truisms, such as "you can strenghten your immune system with a pill." Not unless you have an auto-immune disease, pardner.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2007


And to add, even all the germ phobia in this thread is silly. The single best way to "strengthen your immune system" is to be exposed to a nice and broad assortment of pathogens on a daily basis. Luckily, we are. Wash your hands, but don't go nuts with the antiseptic. It really doesn't work very well at all. Why, right this moment there are MILLIONS of germs all over your hands and inside your body! Millions, I tell you. And they are all laughing at you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2007


I imagine that snake oil is too expensive an ingredient to be considered for use by the manufacturers of Airborne
posted by sourwookie at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2007


I love Airborne. Works for me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love Airborne. Works for me.

No it doesn't, but you believe it does and that's all that matters, to you. The makers of AirBorne thank you for your anecdotal testimonial. It's so much easier than all that "research" that proves they make snake oil.

But hey, I like avoiding mirrors in the daylight. Works for me. I haven't had a cold in two years, and I don't take any supplements.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:27 PM on January 16, 2007


I love anecdotal responses. Like fourcheesemac (mmm, by the way), I don't take any supplements (aside from a basic multivite) and I very rarely get colds/flu/etc--AND I avoid mirrors at all times! Coincidence? I think not.

My mom, and many other friends and family members, often push the airborne on me. I resist. (although I do love emergen-c, mostly for its true tastiness.) Actually, that would be a post in itself in ask.mefi-- what to do when your paranoid but poorly informed friends and family try to insist you take quack medicines. Always an uncomfortable moment, for me, since I don't like to get in arguments with people about this sort of thing.
posted by miss tea at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2007


My wife really likes the stuff, but I found no use in it whatsoever. I think she willingly accepts the psychosomatic 'cure' because real or not, she feels better.

I on the other hand agree with _sirmissalot_. Never underestimate the curative powers of a neat bourbon. And if you have some particularly recalcitrant viral strain, a couple of Marlboros and a light snack from Taco Bell will kill off damn near anything.

It may not be healthy, but germs don't stand a chance.
posted by quin at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2007


I wash my hands like an OCD freak. Not because I *am* an OCD freak, at least about germs, but because I'm a soapmaker, and I'm usually washing ingredients or products off my hands.

I vary rarely get super sick, and I have a preschooler and my husband is exposed to school administrators/teachers regularly. (Teachers and children...bless their hearts, they're all disease infested germ monkeys.) I'm fairly convinced that the reasons germs don't seem to stick to me is because of the sheer volume of time I spend with my hands in bubbles.

The first time I saw a tube of Airborne and read the ingredients I thought, "Wow, that's extraordinarily large amount of Vitamin A...I think that might be dangerous." A quick scan of medical sites suggested that if used as directed on the label, it could certainly cause ill effects for some people.

For example, one dose of Airborne would deliver 100% of the daily recommended Vitamin A: 5000ui. If, however, you took Airborne according to package directions, you would get 40,000 ui of Vitamin A, or 8X the daily recommended amount. The upper limit of VitA that can be safely taken, according to the FDA is 10,000 ui daily. Airborne, taken as directed, is 4X the upper limit.

That's insane. Vitamin A is fat soluble, so it sticks around in your liver, unlike water soluble vitamins like C, which are flushed out if you get too much.

How these people have escaped prosecution is beyond me.
posted by dejah420 at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2007


I'm totally gullible, like, homeopathy gullible

wow...that's the 9th circle of gullible

very sporting of you to fess up like that


I've read that Vitamin C doesn't do much, but Zinc might actually interfere with the receptors which cold viruses lock onto...but then again maybe not.

All this makes me think of angels. I don't believe in them nor God nor heaven nor hell...but would I be happier if I walked around believing that an invisible, divine creature with wings was watching out for me everywhere? I might. I'd probably be calmer. Course they usually come with all the nasty side-effects of a "Religion"...still if you could just have angels it might not be a bad deal. Seems kinda Zenny, ya know.
posted by django_z at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2007


No it doesn't, but you believe it does and that's all that matters, to you.

Wow, that's dumb. And presumptuous. And patronizing.
posted by hermitosis at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2007


As a NYC street vendor, exposed to many sniffling, sneezing, coughing customers over 2 decades, standing many hours in cold weather etc and also getting through the danger of neutropenia (compromised immune system) while undergoing heavy-duty chemo...I need to know exactly what works and is authentically effective for dealing with the onset of a cold or flu:

So this is what I do the moment I feel sniffly/achey/feverish or any symptom of a cold or flu. I don't wait, I take immediate action:

1. Boil a pot of water, turn off the flame, put a towel over my head and breathe the very hot steam in short, deep breaths into my sinuses and then into my lungs. About one or two intense minutes of that. Supposedly kills the viruses and bacteria.

2. Take a quarter cup of that hot water and a tablespoon of salt, gargle that. Salt is supposedly an antiseptic.

3. Snort Zicam, Cold and Flu zinc gel, once in each nostril. Yes, I'm very aware that there have been adverse effects for some people but that has not been the case for me at all.

4. Swab down and disinfect all the surfaces I regularly touch or use i.e. telephone, keyboard, mouse, pens, faucets, doorknobs, table tops with rubbing alcohol.

5. Take my vitamins, heavy on the Vitamin C.

6. Wash my hands every time after using a tissue.


This system has worked phenomenally well for me for the last 5 years. If I've come down with a cold or flu and done this within several hours I've then felt well again. Everyone I've told this system to and has tried it, said it worked for them too. I was with a good friend recently and all of a sudden she said she felt lousy, feverish, sniffling, achey and I did this remedy and by evening she felt fine.

I've also used Zicam before taking a plane trip or getting into an elevator or sat next to someone on the bus who coughed or sneezed in a fluish kind of way.

One of my customers recommended Airborne recently (said she liked it even better than Zicam) and said Airborne may be effective when used when you do not have a cold but will be spending time with other people who may be sick, like on a plane, visiting relatives or friends with a kid in kindergarden. (Kindergarden is a veritable petrie dish for bacteria).

But I'll stick to my Zicam zinc gel, steam and disinfecting for now.
posted by nickyskye at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2007


Everyone touches that faucet pre-wash

That's why I wash the handles. Just take your soapy hands and run them over the knobs, then splash with water. And use a towel to open the door.

Yea germophobia & OCD!
posted by MikeKD at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2007


Whether it cures colds or not, I don't know, but it sure cleared up my scurvy!
posted by blue_beetle at 12:59 PM on January 16, 2007


The modern trends for disinfection and cleanliness are only making things worse by weakening our immune systems.

Me, I poop on the kitchen floor and roll around in it at least once a week. Haven't had a cold for years.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2007


No, your reasons for not needing hand-washing post-urinating are, if anything, even more valid for a woman,

Sorry, Miko, all I was trying to say was that my calculus involved my dick, which, um, women don't have. :-) I'm not claiming any knowledge of feminine hygiene down there, as I don't own the parts, and my wife doesn't generally let me wash hers. :-) (Sorry, this is really way too much information, but I wasn't trying to say that women are dirty).
posted by teece at 1:07 PM on January 16, 2007


At the onset of every cold for the last three years, I've treated with Airborne and zinc lozenges, and sometimes I use that zinc nose-gel too. I also eat a lot of garlic and hotly spiced foods, drink a lot of teas, and avoid any other drugs.

Ultimately I have never had any symptoms for longer than 2-3 days in this period, and most of the times they have never intensified to the point where it seemed like I was ill. Whereas in the past I had more than my share of 5-6 day lingering colds etc.

Sure there are tons of variables that may have played a factor instead. What difference does it make? The placebo effect will only take you so far. Obviously I am someone for whom some of these treatments are effective, though I don't know which. And I'll keep using what seems to work for me until they actually make a drug whose solution to your cold is not to simply knock you out until it's all over.
posted by hermitosis at 1:12 PM on January 16, 2007


free pie, I wrote nothing about Airborne except that it's junk. Those studies I quoted were about Cold-FX, which uses ginseng and has some peer-reviewed research to support its claims.
posted by maudlin at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2007


No it doesn't, but you believe it does and that's all that matters, to you.

Wow, that's dumb. And presumptuous. And patronizing.


Giving fourcheesemac the benefit of the doubt, it's not dumb. It's the Placebo Effect (do you really need a link?). Kind of hard to argue against.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2007


"No it doesn't, but you believe it does and that's all that matters, to you."

Way to go, you pendatic tool. You've saved the world from yet another incorrect human. The Global Delusion Quotient is now slightly lower, thanks to your brave statement.

I think we need some more Scott Atran in this thread.

"...Perhaps the greatest challenge — and one that has been wholly overlooked here — is 'How do we as scientists advance reason in an inherently unreasonable world?" This is a very difficult issue and one that cannot be seriously addressed by simply trying to muscle science and reason into everyday or momentous human affairs."
posted by Moistener at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2007


"Giving fourcheesemac the benefit of the doubt, it's not dumb. It's the Placebo Effect (do you really need a link?). Kind of hard to argue against."

It IS dumb and juvenile to attempt to invalidate an incredibly cool, useful and necessary human birthright: the placebo effect.

If you're smart enough spout tired, obvious reasoning about the placebo effect, you're smart enough to know to shut the hell up and let others enjoy it.

(If you're truly concerned for their well-being -- too much Vit A or missing out on something that works better -- speak to that instead of nerding out the ol' Its Only A Placebo song.)
posted by Moistener at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2007


I am shocked and saddened to learn that so many Mefites are sucked in by this kind of thing.
To me it's right up there with creationism and the flying spaghetti monster. ie: it's OK as long as you believe.
posted by Merlin at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007


It IS dumb and juvenile to attempt to invalidate an incredibly cool, useful and necessary human birthright: the placebo effect.

Wait -- so the folks at Airborne are selling the Placebo Effect?

NO, they are not.

Airborne does not work for ThePinkSuperhero. If anything does, it's the Placebo Effect. Which is a rather important difference.

The folks at Airborne are not trying to do some great public service by selling a craftily disguised Placebo Effect Pill. Their claiming to have special herbal supplement technology that ..., well does something involving colds, even though it does not prevent or treat them, by their own admission.

The folks at Airborne are con artists, even if fourcheesemac was too harsh in trying to point that out.
posted by teece at 1:49 PM on January 16, 2007


I never even looked at a package, but I always thought it sounded too good and too easy to be true. There is no cure for the common cold.
posted by agregoli at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2007


Some things work for some people some of the time under some circumstances. Some things work for most people most of the time, etc. So blindly saying, "No, sorry, this doesn't work for you, random specific person," is, actually, pretty dumb. Or at least as faulty a claim as those who swear by Airborne's usefulness for everyone.

And don't even get me started about the FDA's standards and approval process.
posted by hermitosis at 2:33 PM on January 16, 2007


All this makes me think of angels...

I'd like to make a list of everyone who believes in a God, and everyone who believes in homeopathic remedies, and everyone who believes that the government/corporations are looking out for your best interests -- and see if there are any people on the planet who don't fall into at least one of those piles.

(I'd like to, but I have a cold. Snf.)
posted by davejay at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2007


*and I did this remedy and by evening she felt fine

meant to write: and she did this remedy and by evening she felt fine
posted by nickyskye at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2007


Coming soon! New Airborne Power Pixies for kids! Of course, pixie dust allows one to fly if one is thinking happy thoughts. Can placebo make you fly? I think not!
posted by bomeezy at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2007


"The folks at Airborne are con artists, even if fourcheesemac was too harsh in trying to point that out."

If the concern is truly fraud, then file an FTC or FDA complaint.

But the thread has a distinct tone of, "Those stupid people think it works. Har har har." This mockery of rudimentary human nature is self-righteous and arrogant, but mainly it's so fucking played out here.

We get it, folks. Humans don't use correct methodology in their decisions and they should be mocked for their ignorance.
posted by Moistener at 2:59 PM on January 16, 2007


Nth-ing Emergen-C.

Especially the Raspberry flavor. Not necessarily for colds, but just for the convenient fizzy deliciousness.

Also, public bathrooms skeeve me, and I wonder why (echoing someone else upthread) there aren't more Pedals and foot switches in there.

Most of the faucets in my Uni bathrooms are the infrared-type switches, and while I think they are probably a little more expensive, I love that I don't have to touch anything.

A little Purell goes a long way, too.

Oh, and "Airborne" is crap.
posted by exlotuseater at 2:59 PM on January 16, 2007


Some things work for some people some of the time under some circumstances. Some things work for most people most of the time, etc. So blindly saying, "No, sorry, this doesn't work for you, random specific person," is, actually, pretty dumb. Or at least as faulty a claim as those who swear by Airborne's usefulness for everyone.
posted by hermitosis at 2:33 PM PST on January 16


yeah that's why there are controlled double-blind tests that measure the difference between taking a drug and taking a placebo but i like your idea better

maybe mcdonald's french fries will cure my encephalitis don't say it won't or you're close-minded hooray
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2007


I took Airborne once and thought it fought off a cold but then the next time I took it and ended up with a nasty cold and then a sinus infection on top of that. So I decided Airborne wasn't as useful as a bunch of vitamin c by itself was. I didn't get sick at all one winter when I was taking echinacea but I have no clue if it was helping or if it was coincidence.

The one and only "miracle cure" that anybody has ever suggested to me that actually worked was taking massive amounts of lysine when I feel a cold sore coming on. I only did that because a doctor was the one that suggested it. Fantastic stuff. If I start when it is barely visible, it doesn't grow much larger if any at all and is quickly gone, often the next morning when I get up there is no trace of it. Maybe a small red spot where the first little blister or two were popping up. Without taking lysine they always get huge and I usually end up with them inside of my nose and on my lip both and I am miserable for at least a couple of weeks.

If I start too late they do not spread further, but I still have to deal with the sore/bleedy/crusty remains if they are already getting a bit of size to them. Evil things.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2007


FWIW, re: Vitamin A and William S. Burroughs, found the following in an interview here.
I have used this simple remedy for thirty years and it works. Everyone I have passed it on to has found that it works either to abort or modify the course of a cold. At the first soreness in the throat which presages the onslaught of a common cold you take 500,000 units of Vitamin A. Vitamin A alone. Not Vitamin C which is quite worthless for a cold.
posted by treepour at 3:08 PM on January 16, 2007


Now I'm imagining Burroughs as a second grade teacher. (Yeah, NSFW).
posted by maudlin at 3:26 PM on January 16, 2007


Well. much as I venerate the man (Burroughs) , he also believed in Orgone therapy (i.e., Wilhem Reich), Dream Machines (a friend and I built one. Sadly we did not have a psychedelic experience) and magick. But I buy this Vitamen A thing....

Everything is permitted, nothing is true
posted by Skygazer at 3:33 PM on January 16, 2007


Cold-FX, now THAT STUFF... is junk with Don Cherry in its ads.

Did you even read your own link?
posted by oaf at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2007


Wow, that's dumb. And presumptuous. And patronizing.
posted by hermitosis

Bite. Me. I'll say it again: AirBorne doesn't "work" for PinkSuperhero or anyone else, unless there's some mechanism by which it works which modern medical science hasn't yet figured out. Given that the ingredients are commonplace supplements, all of which have been studied extensively independently, and in the absence of any *proposed* mechanism of action, the rational, scientific position is the null hypothesis, also known as "It doesn't work, that's a placebo effect."

There, I said it less patronizingly. Study some science and you won't feel patronized by people who know more than you do.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:21 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me anticipate: Oooh, but fourcheesemac, you're invalidating her (?) personal experience.

I repeat, for emphasis: I smoke, drink, eat fast food, don't exercise enough, never (ever) take any sort of supplement for anything, travel all the time, wash my hands a couple of times a day, don't wear a surgical mask in the subway, and . . .

I *never* get a standard-issue "cold." I don't think I've had one in a couple of years, at least.

Works for me. Maybe I can bottle it and sell it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:25 PM on January 16, 2007


Alternately, I can just roll around in this thread.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2007


Airborne feels like a fad to me. It's like when everyone swore that echinacea and goldenseal were the key to fighting colds. I've tried them all, and the only thing that seems to really help is eating well, getting plenty of rest, and relieving stress as much as possible. Those are probably the best ways to keep a cold or flu at bay.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 4:41 PM on January 16, 2007


Exposure to bacteria keys the immune response, so maintaining an antispectic environment is self-defeating. Carrying wipes around for use on ATMs is really fucking ridiculous unless you have an immunity issue like AIDS or Chemo. Opening public restroom doors with your elbows is merely funny. Supplementary micro nutrients are mostly a waste of time. If you have a shitty diet or specific issues they can help improve and maintain your health, ask a limey.
posted by econous at 4:49 PM on January 16, 2007


No, you see, Holy Foxy Moxie, I don't eat well or sleep enough and I am stressed out all the time. And I *never* get a cold. Ergo, by the logic of the anecdotalists upthread, since it works for me it must be due to a generalizable principle of biology easily understood by any layperson. And anyone who says different is harshing my mellow and patronizing me with teh H8.

I'll bet there are people reading this thread who still think echinachea does something to "boost the immune system," even when it's been pretty much proven to be an inert placebo (at least, unlike AirBorne, it doesn't appear to be dangerous, although goldenseal is a stimulant and could potentially have side effects similar to ephedra's, and while goldenseal does not fight any infections that we know of, there is a mechanism for its claimed decongestant effects). These myths get started by con artists, and they become conventional wisdom until the next fad, and even thereafter.

Folks, if curing the common cold was that easy, scientific medicine would be all over it. And don't tell me it's because you can't patent botanicals and vitamins (which is just untrue alt med hyperbole; you can certainly patent a pharmaceutical use for anything). Or is AirBorne a not-for-profit charity, perhaps? I see them funding all kinds of basic virology research . . . oh wait, that's Pfizer, sorry.

So, AirBorne, prove it. Should be easy, if the results are as dramatic as some here are claiming. Surely they are big enough to afford to sponsor a double blind, controlled, peer-reviewed, large scale clinical trial of their product. Think of the sales after the results came back . . .
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Econus, very nicely said. And all the wasted plastic and chemicals and antibiotics being pumped into our environment to service all these Purell and Triclosan OCD fetishists are no laughing matter, either.

Your skin, and everything you touch, and your insides, are *crawling* with pathogenic organisms. Wiping an ATM touchpad has about as much effect on this ecosystem as saying "Zazoom!" three times in the mirror, in the short run. Using triclosan from a plastic bottle to do so, however, will have an incremental effect on the pathogenic balance in our common environment over time, and it's unlikely to be a good one. Yes, common sense dictates regular handwashing and a certain degree of care in choosing your pathogen-rich experiences, but you're spitting in the wind.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:00 PM on January 16, 2007


I was mugged on a bus by a gang of youths once, most of them were black. Racism; it works for me.
posted by econous at 5:03 PM on January 16, 2007


But the thread has a distinct tone of, "Those stupid people think it works. Har har har." This mockery of rudimentary human nature is self-righteous and arrogant.

I'm not mocking anybody. My mother-in-law is a fervent believer in Airborne (schoolteacher). She is not stupid. My motivation in posting in threads like this is to get decent people like my mother-in-law to quit being taken in by con artists.

Folks that market and sale things like Airborne really piss me off. I don't feel any animus or disdain for the people that buy their products. But I'll take every oppurtunity I get to tell them that they are being defrauded.
posted by teece at 5:05 PM on January 16, 2007


AirBorne doesn't "work" for PinkSuperhero or anyone else, unless there's some mechanism by which it works which modern medical science hasn't yet figured out.

It has 1g of Vitamin C in it. In some people, that's enough to shorten the duration of a cold. No magical unknown mechanism needed.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:46 PM on January 16, 2007


"What about a big fat placebo? It's all the same crap!" -Prof. Hubert Farnsworth
posted by clevershark at 6:35 PM on January 16, 2007


I honestly can't stand all this "fear of germs/bacteria" shit. The best way to fight them is to embrace them. I deliberately make a point of eating food I drop on the floor, licking subway poles, etc. and most of all -never- taking antibiotics. I haven't had a cold or infection in 15 years.
posted by tehloki at 6:56 PM on January 16, 2007


Me too! I always ask for the one with syphilis.
posted by Mid at 7:01 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't stand all this "fear of germs/bacteria" shit. The best way to fight them is to embrace them. I deliberately make a point of eating food I drop on the floor, licking subway poles, etc. and most of all -never- taking antibiotics. I haven't had a cold or infection in 15 years.

UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!

I just washed my hands, sprayed my monitor with bleach, gargled, shaved off all my body hair, burned my clothes and donned a HASMAT suit just reading that.

Then, using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope, I inspected my computer desk and keyboard for Germ microbes.

Then once identified I stabbed each and every one — one at a time — with a teeny tiny Ice Pick I carry in a secret compartment in one of my eye lashes. I placed their microscopic corpses in a match box with a four foot long pair of fireplace tongs. Drove the hair, ashes and match box to the desert and buried them. I was also forced to kill the three curious and unclean witnesses who stumbled by asking if I was doing an "art project."

So. tehloki. You can see the lengths I go to remain pure and cleansed of all infectious parasitic vermine filth.

With that in mind I warn you don't post again or I will be forced to sterilize most of the west coast with CLEANSING HOLY FIRE FROM HEAVEN!

UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!
posted by tkchrist at 7:32 PM on January 16, 2007


AirBorne doesn't "work" for PinkSuperhero or anyone else, unless there's some mechanism by which it works which modern medical science hasn't yet figured out.

It has 1g of Vitamin C in it. In some people, that's enough to shorten the duration of a cold. No magical unknown mechanism needed.


Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. What's your problem, fourcheesemac? Why do you care so much about my health? If you're willing to pay my sick wages for the days I'm out sick, I'll gladly stop taking Airborne twice a year when I get a cold- just tell me where to send the bill. Other than that, fuck off, or I'll begin to think you're obsessed with me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:46 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wiping an ATM touchpad has about as much effect on this ecosystem as saying "Zazoom!" three times in the mirror, in the short run.

um ... so that Zazoom thing doesn't work?
posted by krinklyfig at 8:08 PM on January 16, 2007


My solution for colds is to drink something at least 80 proof in strenght. Alcohol is an aniseptic (while I know this is complete hogwash, it's a neat little justification) and it makes me care less. I also drink amazing amounts of OJ, both for the itty-bitty vitamin C benefit, but mostly to stay hydrated.

I haven't had a cold last over a day and a half since I started this regime. I didn't get the flu when I visited my parents and they both had it.

The previous well tested and proven techniques (as well tested and proven as Airborne) are probably cheaper than Airborne and won't give you vitamin A poisoning.
posted by Hactar at 9:38 PM on January 16, 2007


When I head to Target or a movie and have to take a leak, I do not wash my hands, and I doubt I am going to start washing my hands in that situation, I get really annoyed at the bathroom police that think that makes me "dirty."

It's a free society, you're free to fondle your crotch and then pass your pee and e coli onto the surfaces you subsequently touch like some kind of jungle-dwelling animal who doesn't recognize the development of soap and hygene. But don't have the nerve to be upset when those of us who've been out of the trees a little longer think you're disgusting and rude for spreading your personal waste on surfaces we're going to be touching.
posted by phearlez at 10:29 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your point is well made Hactar, but some of us have already made the alcohol/ loose-living point upthread, and this crowd ain't buying it.

Their loss. I may have been snarking with my post, but my smoking, drinking, fast-food-eating-ass hasn't had the flu in the last decade, whereas my non-smoking, mostly non-drinking, vegetarian Wife gets sick with it every other year or so.

She will outlive me by decades, but it doesn't seem to be an influenza that will be my downfall.

[My plan is to; after dying, come for the rest of you. But don't fret Mefites, I will only lust after your brains. Your bodies will live on as the Undead. And scriptures suggest that eventually we will inherit the Earth.

Though, in all honestly, as the undead, we will probably just wander around and say stupid shit like 'braaaiiinsss,' and the like. But hey, it's better than the flu, AmIright?]
posted by quin at 10:52 PM on January 16, 2007


But don't fret Mefites, I will only lust after your brains.

Yeah, well say hello to my little friend. He eats zombies for breakfast.
posted by Skygazer at 11:21 PM on January 16, 2007


It has 1g of Vitamin C in it. In some people, that's enough to shorten the duration of a cold. No magical unknown mechanism needed. - selfmedication (eponysterical)
and

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. What's your problem, fourcheesemac? Why do you care so much about my health? If you're willing to pay my sick wages for the days I'm out sick, I'll gladly stop taking Airborne twice a year when I get a cold- just tell me where to send the bill. Other than that, fuck off, or I'll begin to think you're obsessed with me. - pinksuperhero

Well, well, well. Touchy, touchy. First, selfmedicating, there is no known *mechanism* by which vitamin C *prevents* or shortens cold, and the proof that it does is sketchy at best, contradictory, and anyway, lots of things besides AirBorne have vitamin C in them. Including cheapo vitamin C tablets. Now watch, you'll start quoting Linus Pauling.

As for you, Ms. Pink, you flatter yourself. When you get a cold, please stay home and don't infect other people in the false belief you are "protected" by Airborne. You don't get sick ANY less or more because you take Airborne. You just think you do. That's the point, and the irony. Oh, and . . . fuck off to you too. Don't like the heat? Stay away from the topic.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:17 AM on January 17, 2007


Oh, and pink, I responded exactly once to you prior to your "fuck off." Does responding to you at all make me "obsessed" with you? Someone I have never met? Wow. Next you'll claim I'm "stalking" you because I replied to you saying "fuck off" to me . . . twice!

Don't worry, I'm not obsessed with you. I promise.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:19 AM on January 17, 2007


But it is worth pointing out, finally, that "fuck off" is about the standard defense from believers in placebo medication to the challenge "prove it." That's pretty much what AirBorne is saying to its critics too. "Fuck off." Real convincing scientific argument there. I once saw a comment, years ago, in one of the endless alternative medicine debates of yore somewhere on USENET, that read: "Studies, studies, fuck you and your studies. It works for ME." Chidlish, but common.

/obsession
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:22 AM on January 17, 2007


Hey, placebo medication -does- work (sort of, in that it causes your body's own systems for fighting infection/disease more efficiently, due to some weird "psychological reward" thing. However, believing that something you -know- to be a placebo (thus rendering the psychological "placebo effect" invalid) will actually help you fight a cold is just, well, retarded.
posted by tehloki at 6:55 AM on January 17, 2007


Actually, you can experience the placebo effect even with the full knowledge that you are taking a placebo medication. Weird, huh?

So if the argument is that the mechanism of AirBorne is the placebo effect, fine. It "works." Fabulous. Just don't tell me it works better than my mirror trick or drinking water upside down. And why would you take a placebo that gave you dangerous levels of a fat soluble vitamin or pay a premium for common ingredients?
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:21 AM on January 17, 2007


Hmm, looks like you proved my point. Thanks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:57 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Vick's new First Defense sounds like a much more realistic solution. Pity that it's not available in the US yet.
posted by JJ86 at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2007


fourcheesemac, all thepinksuperhero said was that she loves it and works for her. She didn't say, "This product is scientifically proven to cure my cold and banish all viruses to the land of wind and ghosts!" If the vitamin content is helping her get over her cold--- and for all any of us know, it is-- then you are easily wrong, and arrogantly so. In the absence of proof, then you're just arrogant.

Optimus Chyme: yeah that's why there are controlled double-blind tests that measure the difference between taking a drug and taking a placebo but i like your idea better


Ridiculous. We're not talking about sugar pill here, we're talking about vitamins and minerals and some other herbal ingredients that may (or may not) help some people. Considering how many drugs are synthesized or enhanced versions of natural compounds, I don't see why this is so patently outrageous.

Also, as I said, people have different sensitivities to different things. I can't take most allergy medicines because of the side-effects, for example. What works just fine for many people simply doesn't work for everybody, and though drugs are made and marketed shooting for the highest common denominator, but are guaranteed to let many people down. Vitamins work the same way: so much depends on the individual and their diet and a bunch of other factors.

I concede that it's probably more fun to feel superior to anyone who doesn't get that Airborne is a huge conspiracy and fraud, but it's just as satisfying to feel superior to those who are incredibly condescending over really piffling personal medication choices. For the sake of this thread, I hope the placebo effect applies so that feeling superior actually MAKES you superior in some way. Maybe it will even cure your cold!
posted by hermitosis at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2007


It's interesting how this thread has developed. When I posted it to the Blue, it was after I had already discussed the issue with my wife, who is a BIG Airborne believer. To her, it didn't matter what anyone said...she thinks it works, and that's good enough for her. She still gets colds, and they seem to last as long as mine do (I'm not an Airborne user). Whether it is marketing, placebo effect, or actually effective, she will continue to use it, and I will continue to be a non-believer. Sort of like this thread, you choose a side, and refuse to compromise. We, however, never got to the " fuck off" stage of the argument...agreed to disagree.
posted by lobstah at 8:38 AM on January 17, 2007


Well, lobstah, a "fuck off" here in the blue is not really going to have an impact on any of our sex lives, so we can afford to be a little less restrained here.

Now fuck off!!
posted by hermitosis at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2007


hah...
I always thought "fuck off' was just a roadside attraction on Godwin's Highway.
posted by lobstah at 9:51 AM on January 17, 2007


This thing is still a textbook example of a placebo.

Yes, the ingredients are good for you; they increase your overall ability to fight colds in same way eating a healthy diet will. This does not mean that the product will magically shorten the duration of a cold any more than taking a vitamin C tablet every day. This isn't a medication, it's a dietary supplement. You should be getting enough vitamin C every day to keep you healthy and up to standards for infection-fighting.

Taking a full gram of vitamin C every few hours if you already have enough of your system will -not- shorten the duration or intensity of a cold... unless you believe it will.
posted by tehloki at 11:42 AM on January 17, 2007


Oh, unless you abstain from citrus fruits and only ingest vitamin C in anything resembling adequate quantities when you have a cold. But then you're a salty scurvy sea-dog pirate anyway, so like, nothing can hurt you.
posted by tehloki at 11:44 AM on January 17, 2007


all thepinksuperhero said was that she loves it and works for her.

No, that's not all s/he said. S/he said "fuck off." Check it out upthread.

I'm thrilled it works for her. Or rather, I'm thrilled she thinks it works for her and therefore "it works for her." In the absence of positive proof, an anecdote is an anecdote, and I don't have to prove a negative; AirBorne has to prove its claims, or its supporters have to point to existing proof. And "fuck off" is not relevant to that argument.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:53 AM on January 17, 2007


And we can have the vitamin C debate all day too, but AirBorne is not just vitamin C, even if there *were* proof vitamin C supplementation had anything to do with fighting colds. Tehloki is exactly right. You get as much vitamin C as your body needs from a good diet. Any more is just pissed away, a waste of money and time. Vitamin A, however, is fat soluble and builds up in your body to *toxic* levels if you take too much. AirBorne, to repeat, is not only an inert placebo, but potentially dangerous if used *as directed.* Nice.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:58 AM on January 17, 2007


My wife really likes the stuff, but I found no use in it whatsoever. I think she willingly accepts the psychosomatic 'cure' because real or not, she feels better.

I am sure it doesn't actually work. The science part of my brain says "no peer reviewed, double blind studies, its a hoax". Yet I started taking it when I was starting to feel sick, and I didn't fall ill. When I ran out and didn't get more, I got the flu.

It is, I'm certain, coincidence. But i'm superstitious, and everytime i've taken it when i thought I was getting sick, i did not. Yeah, I'm 99% sure its coincidence, but as i've said, the $6 is worth the chance i won't get sick.

Now that I know about the Vit. A though, I may have to give up my placebo.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:22 PM on January 17, 2007


Folks that market and sale things like Airborne really piss me off. I don't feel any animus or disdain for the people that buy their products. But I'll take every oppurtunity I get to tell them that they are being defrauded.

yeah, this is the issue for me, too. Airborne made $21 million last year. I am a little surprised there are folks here who go for it, because the marketing / packaging seems so blatantly manipulative - cute cartoons, i'm just a regular schoolteacher, hey it might help, can't hurt, give it a shot, what's the harm...

It's a good marketing strategy, because people will buy it for a couple years and then it will fade out, and no one will be pissed off about it because it was just a few bucks and who knows, it mighta helped. But a few years is enough time for the "inventor" to make her fortune and retire. And her only skill was having the thatchers to offer up a totally ordinary combination of vitamins in a cute package at a marked-up price.

I dunno, I guess I buy Thera-flu sometimes, which is just tylenol & some other stuff in a drinkable / flavored form, so maybe it's not that different... I just couldn't pay that much for drinkable vitamins.
posted by mdn at 12:54 PM on January 17, 2007


Hmm, looks like you proved my point. Thanks.

The "you" of this having been unspecified, and no "point" having been made under your moniker other than that Airborne "works for you," what "point" would that be?
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:07 PM on January 17, 2007


I am a really big fan of Emergen-C myself. Every day I pour some in a blender with soy yogurt, protein powder, and fresh berries and I don't get sick as often as I used to. Plus, it seems to give me a nice energy boost in the morning.

I don't eat very healthily so I probably don't get the vitamins that I should from food (unless pizza is secretly full of nutrients). So, I don't see that there could be anything but a benefit for me to take this.

In light of the problems with the Vitamin A in Airborne, Emergen-C doesn't seem to have too much of any one vitamin and I take it in lieu of a daily multi-vitamin.

On a side note, My biggest gripe with germs is people that sneeze/cough in their hands instead of their arm or sleeve. Every time somebody goes to shake my hand after doing this I groan. Please don't do that...
posted by Raichle at 4:19 PM on January 17, 2007


Anyone try Yin Chiao? Here in Asheville it flies off the shelves during flu season.
posted by moonbird at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2007


Ridiculous. We're not talking about sugar pill here, we're talking about vitamins and minerals and some other herbal ingredients that may (or may not) help some people. Considering how many drugs are synthesized or enhanced versions of natural compounds, I don't see why this is so patently outrageous.
posted by hermitosis at 8:21 AM PST on January 17


yes and if a big-ass fizzy tablet filled with minerals, herbs, and a toxic amount of vitamin A is better than a placebo at lessening the duration or severity of the common cold, a controlled double-blind test will prove it

no one's talking about the presence or absence of "natural compounds" you're just trying to change the subject

anyway since there is no evidence whatsoever that airborne works your vigorous defense of it is dumb
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:26 AM on January 18, 2007


Digitalis is made from a natural compound. Mercury is natural. Lead is natural. Arsenic is natural. Ricin is natural. Where some people get the idea that "natural=healthy" I will never understand .

AirBorne is an expensive placebo unless and until they prove otherwise.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2007


For anyone still reading, today's New York Times has an article on the dangers (largely underreported) of serious adverse events and even death associated with a wide range of "natural" "nutritional supplement" products. The money quote:
By 2005, the number [of reported adverse reactions, estimated to be only 1 percent of all adverse reactions] had grown ninefold: 125,595 incidents were reported related to vitamins, minerals, essential oils, herbs and other supplements. In all, over the 23-year span, the association — a national organization of state and local poison centers — has received more than 1.6 million reports of adverse reactions to such products, including 251,799 that were serious enough to require hospitalization. From 1983 to 2004 there were 230 reported deaths from supplements, with the yearly numbers rising from 4 in 1994, the year the supplement bill passed, to a record 27 in 2005.
this one is also nice:
Since April 2002, five large randomized trials financed by the center have found no significant benefit for St. John’s wort against major depression, echinacea against the common cold, saw palmetto for enlarged prostate, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis, or black cohosh and other herbs for the hot flashes associated with menopause.
The article is by Dan Hurley, who is the author of the book “Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America’s Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry.”
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:08 AM on January 20, 2007


It turns out that NYT article had some incorrect statistics and the real ones are not as harsh as the original article indicated. Corrections were posted on February 6, accessible from the original link.
posted by litlnemo at 3:07 PM on February 7, 2007


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