Should You Take Zinc for a Cold?

This supplement could soothe your sniffles.


Before you submit yourself to a season of sniffles and sore throats, there’s one way you could fight back against the misery of the common cold. According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers have touted the effectiveness of zinc supplements in fighting the common cold since as far back as 1984. Although study results have been mixed, recent research shows that if you act at the first sign of symptoms, zinc supplement benefits can include a lessening the length and severity of your colds. (Here are clear signs that show a cold is coming.)

Medical professionals including Tim Brown, PharmD, BCACP, FASHP at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Akron, Ohio, says patients should speak with their doctor or pharmacist regarding zinc supplement benefits.

Is Zinc
Good for Colds?

“The information from medical studies shows that if the correct form of zinc is used it could reduce the severity of the symptoms and the length of time someone is sick with a cold,” Dr. Brown says. “For this to occur it is important to use Zinc gluconate or Zinc acetate lozenges, taken every two hours while awake starting within 48 hours of the first symptom of the cold.”

Before purchasing a zinc supplement, it’s important to be aware of the various kinds available, and what to avoid. In June 2009, the FDA advised consumers against certain zinc-containing nose sprays as they could cause a permanent lose of smell. Rather, Health magazine encourages purchasing a zinc in lozenge form and allowing it to dissolve completely in your mouth.

The Mayo Clinic reports that side effects are possible when taking zinc for colds, including nausea or a bad taste in the mouth.

No matter what you use in the fight against the common cold it’s important to first speak with your doctor. As Dr. Brown notes, your past medical history and current prescriptions or supplements could determine whether zinc is good for your cold. Whether you choose to take zinc for colds or not, there’s one way we can all prevent the common cold.

“One of the best ways to prevent the common cold is to wash or sanitize your hands routinely as you go through your day and keep your hands away from your face to reduce transmission of the cold virus,” Dr. Brown said. Here’s what to eat when you have a cold.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.