Zinc and the Common Cold

A 1984 study that found that taking zinc supplements helped people to get less sick from the common cold was what popularized using zinc as a treatment for colds. However, more recent research has provided mixed results on zinc’s effects on colds.

What does the research say?
A recent analysis from several studies revealed that zinc lozenges or syrup could make a cold last one day less, especially if you take it within one day of your cold symptoms.

Conversely, the same analysis was made up of studies that did not include enough participants to provide strong proof of the findings. They used varied dosages, forms (lozenges or syrup) of zinc, and treatment lengths. Because of the all-over-the-place nature of the conditions of the studies, it is hard to discern what dose and course of treatment is effective.

What causes colds, and how does zinc treat colds?
It is important to understand that most colds are caused by rhinovirus, which affects your nasal passages and throat. It is believed that zinc works to treat the common cold by hindering the reproduction of the rhinovirus and/or not allowing the virus to settle into the mucus membranes in your nose and throat.

Are there any possible dangers of using zinc?
It should be noted that zinc has side effects, such as nausea or a bad taste in your mouth. These side effects are most commonly experienced when using zinc lozenges. Zinc nasal sprays have been known to cause permanent loss of smell.

Zinc overdose and zinc toxicity are possibilities as well. Signs of zinc toxicity include copper deficiency, anemia, and nervous system damage.

Are there any other considerations about zinc to keep in mind?
Since the research done about the use of zinc to treat the common cold is inconclusive, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor before you begin a zinc supplement regimen. Your doctor will help you determine if zinc is right for you and tell you what type and dosage you should use to treat and prevent colds.

If you decide to use zinc to help relieve your cold symptoms, it may be better to use zinc lozenges or syrup instead of tablets. Lozenges and syrup coat your throat and directly contact the rhinovirus that is causing your cold.