I’ve often complained, along with the rest of the world, that there is no magic pill yet designed to cure the world’s most common illness — the common cold. But now, there is some hope! There’s an excellent meta-analysis by the well-respected Cochrane Library which now says what some docs had been touting for years — that zinc supplements, when taken within 24 hours of cold symptoms, can truly improve symptom severity and length, as well as lower risk of needing antibiotics. This is great news! I already used zinc off and on for years in my cold supplements, which are usually Airborne or Dr Thompson Coldwar pills; and I will now definitely be more aggressive with zinc during my colds. I’m convinced.
The common cold is often caused by the rhinovirus. It is one of the most widespread illnesses and is a leading cause of visits to the doctor and absenteeism fromschool and work. Complications of the common cold include otitis media (middle ear infection), sinusitis and exacerbations of reactive airway diseases. There is no proven treatment for the common cold. However, a medication that is even partially effective in the treatment and prevention of the common cold could markedly reduce morbidity and economic losses due to this illness.
Zinc inhibits rhinoviral replication and has been tested in trials for treatment of the common cold. This review identiﬁed 15 randomized controlled trials, enrolling 1360 participants of all age groups, comparing zinc with placebo (no zinc). We found that zinc (lozenges or syrup) is beneﬁcial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. People taking zinc are also less likely to have persistence of their cold symptoms beyond seven days of treatment. Zinc supplementation for at least ﬁve months reduces incidence, school absenteeism and prescription of antibiotics for children with the common cold. People taking zinc lozenges (not syrup or tablet form) are more likely to experience adverse events, including bad taste and nausea. As there are no studies in participants in whom common cold symptoms might be troublesome (for example, those with underlying chronic illness, immunodeﬁciency, asthma, etc.), the use of zinc currently cannot be recommended for them. Given the variability in the populations studied (no studies from low- or middle-income countries), dose, formulation and duration of zinc used in the included studies, more research is needed to address these variabilities and determine the optimal duration of treatment as well as the dosage and formulations of zinc that will produce clinical beneﬁts without increasing adverse effects, before making a general recommendation for zinc in treatment of the common cold.
The usual dosing is 3-4 times a day during your illness; the most common lozenges are 23-30mg, so one of these 3-4 times a day would help best. Don’t forget, it’s important to start zinc quickly and not wait a few days. As it says above, side effects are common but not severe, including bad taste and a bit of nausea.
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