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Money Tips for When the Sniffles Start

There is still no cure for the common cold, but that hasn’t stopped consumers from spending billions of dollars every year on vitamins, medicines and doctor visits. (I admit I do too, from time to time.)

“There’s a bit of magical thinking at work here,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University. “In the 21st century, the idea is that we ought to be able to do something about colds and flus.”

So people will pop pills even when there is little or no proof they work. Americans spent about $3.6 billion on over-the-counter cold, cough and throat remedies in 2009, according to projections from Mintel International, a market research firm, about 1.7 percent more than in 2008. In addition, cold and flu sufferers will spend millions of dollars on prescription antibiotics that have no effect on viral infections.

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