Airborne, also known as Airborne Effervescent Health Formula, is a dietary supplement that has at times claimed to boost the immune system and treat or prevent colds. These claims have not been proven, and the company that produces Airborne has faced controversy and lawsuits as a result.
The formula for Airborne was created by Victoria Knight-McDowell, an elementary school teacher. Airborne was developed in 1997 and reached $90 million in sales annually by 2004, according to a report in "The New York Times."
Airborne contain vitamins A, C and E, manganese, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, amino acids and an herbal blend of echinacea, ginger, isatis, Chinese vitex, forsythia, lonicera and schizonepeta.
The Airborne Effervescent Health Formula website recommends taking the product "whenever your immune system needs support." Lack of sleep and stress are some of the listed factors that may result in a weakened immune system. The website also recommends taking Airborne before traveling or visiting crowded places.
Airborne tablets are dissolved in a glass of 4 to 6 oz. of water before being consumed. The makers of Airborne recommend taking the product every three to four hours, but no more than three times a day. Airborne comes in four flavors: lemon lime, pink grapefruit, very berry and zesty orange.
Consumption of too much vitamin A can lead to toxicity, which includes symptoms such as blurred vision, nausea and headaches. The Institute of Medicine instituted a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of vitamin A at 10,000 International Units (IU) per day. At one time, a single tablet of Airborne contained 5,000 IU of vitamin A, exposing consumers to potential toxicity if they took three daily doses. Currently, one Airborne tablet has 2,000 IU of vitamin A, but care should still be taken if using Airborne while taking other vitamin or dietary supplements.
Airborne is classified as a dietary supplement, which doesn't need approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 requires the manufacturer of the supplement to ensure the safety of its product and have evidence to support any claims of benefits derived from the product. The producer of the dietary supplement is not required to disclose this proof to the public or the FDA.
In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Airborne Health for deceptive advertising. The product had claimed to be effective for the treatment and prevention of the common cold, but did not have scientific evidence to support these claims. The makers of Airborne were also part of a class-action lawsuit in 2008 because of false advertising. The company settled the suit, agreeing to pay $23.3 million to consumers.