A Public Health Announcement — Zinc Works For Colds

flu1Admittedly, I am a study group of one.  But I have been getting colds for fifty plus years and I am very cognizant of their normal progression and severity.  This one that came on hard four days ago should have me a whimpering mass of jelly by now (I don’t handle colds well), with a stuffed nose, mild fever, very painful throat, and a productive cough.  It’s always the same, or at least it was until this time.  The difference this time is this — having heard that zinc lessens the severity and duration of a cold if you start supplementing zinc at the cold’s onset, I tried it.  Four days ago, I went to GNC and picked up a $3 bottle of 50 mg zinc supplements and have taken one a day since.  (I also picked up a bottle of 2 mg copper tablets, as zinc and copper need to be taken in balance or bad things can happen.)  The results have been so pronounced as to be striking.  Yes, I am stuffed up badly, and yes, I have a mildly productive cough, but it is probably only 30% as bad as I would fully expect for a cold that came on this strongly.

Here is what the Mayo Clinic says on their website about zinc and colds:

There’s been a lot of talk about taking zinc for colds ever since a 1984 study showed that zinc supplements kept people from getting as sick. Since then, research has turned up mixed results about zinc and colds.

Recently an analysis of several studies showed that zinc lozenges or syrup reduced the length of a cold by one day, especially when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold.

Studies also showed that taking zinc regularly might reduce the number of colds each year, the number of missed school days, and the amount of antibiotics required in otherwise healthy children.

Most colds are caused by a type of virus called rhinovirus, which thrives and multiplies in the nasal passages and throat (upper respiratory system). Zinc may work by preventing the rhinovirus from multiplying. It may also stop the rhinovirus from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.

Zinc may be more effective when taken in lozenge or syrup form, which allows the substance to stay in the throat and come in contact with the rhinovirus.

But the recent analysis stopped short of recommending zinc. None of the studies analyzed had enough participants to meet a high standard of proof. Also, the studies used different zinc dosages and preparations (lozenges or syrup) for different lengths of time. As a result, it’s not clear what the effective dose and treatment schedule would be.

Zinc — especially in lozenge form — also has side effects, including nausea or a bad taste in the mouth. Many people who used zinc nasal sprays suffered permanent loss of smell. For this reason, Mayo Clinic doctors caution against using such sprays.

In addition, large amounts of zinc are toxic and can cause copper deficiency, anemia and damage to the nervous system.

At any rate, I pass this on for cold sufferers.  It might be worth your while to consider trying zinc next time you feel a cold coming on.  I have no idea what the most effective medium is for taking the zinc, though I can say that a simple supplement pill of zinc (and copper) has worked wonders for me, so much so that I thought I would pass my observations.

Now for the disclaimer, always consult a physician before taking any specific supplements or medications for a cold.  Never trust the musings of some idiot on the internet.