Can Vitamin C Prevent Colds?

Vitamin C rich foods

Often hailed as a super nutrient, vitamin C stands as a versatile powerhouse in promoting overall health. Functioning as a potent antioxidant, it plays a vital role in shielding our cells from harm and aids in the healing of wounds. Moreover, its ability to facilitate collagen production contributes to the health of our bones and tendons. vitamin C doesn't stop there—it also enhances iron absorption, acting as a preventive measure against anemia. And for most people, when we think about immunity, we think about vitamin C. So as we find ourselves amidst the cold and flu season, the spotlight is starting to shine on vitamin C. Because of this I wanted to dive deeper into the question: Can vitamin C really prevent colds?

What Does the Research Say?

Vitamin C plays an important role in the normal functioning of our immune system. Here’s some ways that it impacts our immune system: it helps in the production of white blood cells, which prevent infection. And its antioxidant activity helps prevent cells from damage, making the body more resistant to viruses. Also the production of collagen, which vitamin C plays a role in, can maintain the integrity of skin and mucus membranes providing an extra barrier to infections. This all sounds great right?  Vitamin C must keep us super healthy. But as with most things, its a bit more complicated.

While we know that vitamin C elicits positive effects on our immune function, not all the evidence is strong in support of using supplementation for the prevention of common colds.  Most studies do not show that taking Vitamin C supplements will prevent you from getting the common cold, however there is evidence that perhaps taking extra Vitamin C will reduce the severity and duration when you do catch a cold. 1, 2, 4, 5 

I have so many questions when I see the research as to why we don’t see a greater effect. And as I said, fully understanding vitamin C’s role is complicated. Could it be that there is something else in food that synergistically works with vitamin C to boost our immune system and that’s why randomized control studies of vitamin C supplements don’t prevent common colds? Could it be the right dose hasn’t been tested? Or the right form hasn’t been given? Does supplementation only help those who are deficient? Some of this is hinted at in studies. Needless to say we don’t have all the answers. But we do know vitamin C in foods and supplements is fairly safe and may at least make your cold more tolerable when you do get it. 

How Much Vitamin C Do Kids Need?

Kid holding up oranges

You may be wondering how much vitamin C your little ones need? Kids should at the minimum be meeting their recommended intake of vitamin C to help with all of it’s uses in their bodies, including making sure they have enough to fight infections. The specific amount of vitamin C varies by age. So see the chart below for the daily recommendations of vitamin C for kids broken down by age group.


Age Group

Recommended Amount of Vitamin C

Toddlers (1-3 years old)

15 mg

Young Kids (4-8 years old)

25 mg

Older Kids (9-13 years old)

45 mg

Even older Kids (14-18 years old)

65-75 mg

Food Sources of Vitamin C

When possible, I think it’s best to get vitamin C from food sources because you get other nutrients along with it. And vitamin C is so easy to get from foods because vitamin C is in many foods. Here are some really good sources to give you kids on a daily basis:

  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupe

So What About Supplements?

Bottle with citrus coming out

Overall, vitamin C has low toxicity and is not believed to cause serious adverse effects, with common complaints related to gastrointestinal discomfort. And because of its relatively low cost, vitamin C supplements may still be something you could try for yourself or your kids during cold and flu season to see if it makes a difference. For kids I would supplement below the tolerable upper limit provided below, especially if you plan to give it daily year round. It’s ok to give higher doses for shorter periods of time, especially considering vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. This means whatever is not needed will be eliminated when your child pees.  But I do suggest checking with your child’s pediatrician before increasing your child’s intake of vitamin C beyond the recommended amount.

Age Group

Tolerable Upper Limit of Vitamin C

Toddlers (1-3 years old)

400 mg

Young Kids (4-8 years old)

650 mg

Older Kids (9-13 years old)

1200 mg

Even older Kids (14-18 years old)

1800 mg

And if you feel your child is not consuming enough vitamin C rich foods and you want to try supplements, here are some supplements that I like:

Kids Chewable Vitamin C from Carlson Labs*

Mary Ruth’s Kids Vitamin C Drops

Nordic Naturals Vitamin C Gummies

Renzo’s Vitamin C Melty Tabs

*Available through Eat Play Thrive’s Fullscript account for easy ordering

In conclusion, while vitamin C undeniably offers a myriad of health benefits, its role in preventing common colds remains a topic of ongoing research. As we navigate the cold and flu season, incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into our diets appears to be a wise choice for overall well-being. Whether considering supplements, especially for children, it's crucial to stay within recommended limits and consult with healthcare professionals. The journey to understanding the full scope of vitamin C's impact on our immune system is complex, but what we do know is that a balanced approach to nutrition remains key. Here's to a healthy and immune-resilient season!


  1. Rondanelli M, Miccono A, Lamburghini S, Avanzato I, Riva A, Allegrini P, Faliva MA, Peroni G, Nichetti M, Perna S. Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds-Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals in order to Prevent or Treat Common Colds. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Apr 29;2018:5813095. doi: 10.1155/2018/5813095. PMID: 29853961; PMCID: PMC5949172. 

  1. Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;2013(1):CD000980. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4. PMID: 23440782; PMCID: PMC8078152. 
  2. Ran L, Zhao W, Wang H, Zhao Y, Bu H. Vitamin C as a Supplementary Therapy in Relieving Symptoms of the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 10 Randomized Controlled Trials. Biomed Res Int. 2020 Oct 9;2020:8573742. doi: 10.1155/2020/8573742. Erratum in: Biomed Res Int. 2021 Apr 27;2021:9875417. PMID: 33102597; PMCID: PMC7569434.
  3. Keya TA, Leela A, Fernandez K, Habib N, Rashid M. Effect of Vitamin C Supplements on Respiratory Tract Infections: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Curr Rev Clin Exp Pharmacol. 2022;17(3):205-215. doi: 10.2174/2772432817666211230100723. PMID: 34967304. 
  4. Hemilä H. Vitamin C and Infections. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 29;9(4):339. doi: 10.3390/nu9040339. PMID: 28353648; PMCID: PMC5409678.
  5. Cerullo G, Negro M, Parimbelli M, Pecoraro M, Perna S, Liguori G, Rondanelli M, Cena H, D'Antona G. The Long History of Vitamin C: From Prevention of the Common Cold to Potential Aid in the Treatment of COVID-19. Front Immunol. 2020 Oct 28;11:574029. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.574029. PMID: 33193359; PMCID: PMC7655735.
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