Can Taking Zinc Actually Shorten Your Cold?


The best option is to avoid getting a cold altogether, but if you do catch one, the next best thing is to get over it fast. The mineral zinc, which is an essential trace element, may help you do just that.

There are some evidence-based studies that suggest zinc supplements could be helpful in fighting a cold. It’s all a matter of timing. Take zinc supplements within the first day of a cold, that is, within 24 hours of when your symptoms first appear and it may reduce both how long the cold lasts and how bad the symptoms are overall, according to a November 2011 meta-analysis of 13 randomized trials in The Journal of Family Practice.

The mineral may help stop the virus responsible for colds that is, the rhinovirus, from getting comfortable and multiplying in your upper respiratory system.

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How Much Zinc to Take for a Cold

Taking zinc lozenges can help you recover from a cold three times faster than you normally would, per an April 2017 meta-analysis published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Some doctors recommend their patients take zinc in lozenge form (10 to 20 milligrams) for three to seven days when they want to add more zinc amidst cold. Even though zinc may help reduce symptoms and duration of a cold, this is one supplement you don’t want to overdo. “You must be very careful when adding zinc in supplement form to ensure you’re not getting too much.

Take too much zinc, and you’ll prevent the absorption of copper, another essential element, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering. Plus, too much zinc can cause gastrointestinal issues. The taste of zinc supplements can be metallic and unpleasant, and it can lead to nausea, per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Zinc Lozenges or Nasal Spay — Which Do You Choose?

Sucking on a zinc lozenge increases the level of zinc in the upper respiratory tract’s mucous membranes, that’s the spot where the rhinovirus lurks when you have a cold. A zinc syrup can also lead to the same effect of having the zinc linger in the throat, where the rhinovirus lives.

Make sure to stay away from zinc nasal sprays and nasal gels as there have been reports of people losing their sense of smell and taste due to these. You’ll also want to avoid zinc supplements that include citric acid, which can interfere with the absorption of zinc.

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Taking vitamins and cold medications together can be tricky, so check with your health care provider if you are on medications. Zinc can bind with the drug in the stomach and form complexes, making it more difficult for the body to absorb the medication. Interactions can occur with thyroid medications as well as certain antibiotics.

With zinc-containing supplements, it is important to separate the time you take the supplement from the time you take the medications by 2 to 4 hours to avoid this interaction.

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