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Alcohol and Colds

June 22, 2006

We answer this listener’s question: Can a shot of alcohol stop a cold in its tracks?


Can a shot cure your cold? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Rafael Peña heard that a few shots of alcohol can stop a cold in its tracks and wants to know if it’s really true. Well, alcohol does kill germs on surfaces, so we asked microbiologist Agnes Day of the Howard University College of Medicine if it could kill cold viruses in your body. Unfortunately, she says once you have a cold, the virus is already inside your cells.

AGNES DAY (Howard University College of Medicine):
The alcohol will not penetrate into these cells, and so, no, it’s not going to kill the virus. But it will probably make you feel better about having a cold.

And some studies have shown that people who drink moderately are less likely to get colds in the first place.

If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.