It’s that time of the year again, when porch pumpkins and gourds sit next to spooky ghosts and sometimes ghoulish decor. It’s a season of taking the good with the bad. But what’s possibly more terrifying than being greeted by a 12-foot skeleton bright and early on a fall morning, is the oncoming cold and flu season. For many consumers, now is the time to stock up on immune support and cold relief products to weather the brewing storm of pestilence. 

CivicScience polling indicates a rise in the number of consumers who say they take a holistic approach to general ailments and the common cold before utilizing conventional means to soothe and heal. When compared to earlier poll results in February 2021, the data show a 50% increase in the number of U.S. adults who try herbal and vitamin remedies before traditional over-the-counter medicine.

Holistic medicine such as herbal and vitamin remedies can fall under the broader category of complementary and alternative medicine, as defined by the medical community. Generally speaking, older generations are tied to the conventional treatment of common ailments and the usual viral symptoms. Women are more inclined to attempt a holistic treatment for illness, but people with school-aged kids tend to utilize conventional means from the start. 

Declining Trust in Medical Organizations

The gradual shift from conventional to holistic remedies is correlated with waning trust in major scientific and medical organizations, such as the CDC and FDA. According to CivicScience polling, consumers are more likely to rate their trust in these organizations as low, rather than high or medium. The percentage of the U.S. population who said they have ‘high trust’ in these medical orgs shrunk from one-third to 28% of the population in one year. ‘Low/no trust’ individuals increased from 36% to 40% of individuals in the same time period (excluding those with ‘no opinion’).

Data show Americans who say they try holistic treatments before conventional means have significantly less trust in scientific and medical organizations than people seeking conventional treatments first. Half of respondents who use herbal and vitamin remedies before traditional medicine have low or no trust in an organization such as the FDA that regulates conventional over-the-counter drugs.

Possibly a symptom of the recent global pandemic, Americans appear to spook easily. For example, in September, an FDA panel determined that an over-the-counter decongestant (phenylephrine) is ineffective for treating the common cold. While physicians say the compound is harmless despite being ineffective, recent poll results found that consumers are concerned about their health and potential access to over-the-counter medications that contain it. For the average person, the recent ruling on phenylephrine might feel more like backpedaling than ongoing research and development of pharmaceuticals.

Vick’s Beats Out Other Conventional Brands

For those who do seek conventional treatment of the common cold, Vicks DayQuil/NyQuil is the leading brand selected by consumers. Even across generations, consumers choose DayQuil more than any other major brand. Mucinex cuts in just a little bit, finding more loyalty among people under 25, but it’s among consumers who prefer holistic remedies that the brand really catches up to Vicks.

Experts say there are more than 200 viral infections that result in cold symptoms, and children as well as adults deal with them several times throughout the season. For everyone, conventional or holistic treatment aside, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” sickness will rear its ugly head. More than half of patients who will come down with a cold will reach for conventional treatments like Vick’s DayQuil or Mucinex. But a growing percentage of people are looking at non-traditional methods to soothe and heal.

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