Zinc for Colds: Lozenges & Nasal Sprays

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Introduction

You've probably heard a lot about zinc for colds. But is zinc really effective for reducing the duration of cold symptoms? Here's what you should know about zinc and colds.

What is zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell. Zinc has antioxidant effects and is vital to the body's resistance to infection. It's also important for tissue repair.

Zinc is found naturally in shellfish, beef and other red meats, nuts and seeds, beans, and milk and cheese. Tea, coffee, and certain medications may interfere with zinc absorption in the intestines.

Is zinc an effective cold remedy?

Researchers have studied the use of zinc as a cold remedy and as a way to treat the cold virus. Still, the data from years of scientific studies is mixed.

In some studies, researchers found that zinc lozenges or nasal sprays decreased the duration of colds. In other studies, they found no differences in cold symptoms between those who took zinc and those who took a placebo or sugar pill.

What do these findings on zinc and colds mean to you and your family? For now, the study results on using zinc as a cold remedy are inconclusive. For every study showing a positive benefit with zinc, there's another study showing no benefit at all. In fact, it's believed that if there is any benefit in taking zinc or zinc lozenges, it is very minor.

Is zinc a safe cold remedy?

The effectiveness of zinc as a cold remedy relies on frequent dosing during the illness, which means zinc lozenges must be taken every two to four hours. Short-term use of zinc — less than 5 days — has not lead to serious side effects but can cause mouth irritation and stomach upset. However, experts recommend that zinc should not be taken for more than 5 days. Long-term use of zinc — for more than 6 weeks — can lead to copper deficiency.

Zinc nasal sprays are known to cause a loss of the sense of smell in animals, and there have been several reports of people losing their sense of smell from zinc nasal sprays. Due to this risk of a loss of smell, many experts recommend that you avoid zinc nasal sprays completely.

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