Zinc may shorten common cold

February 16, 2011

Zinc, in lozenge or syrup form, is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within at least 24 hours of onset of symptoms, according to a new report published in the Cochran Library.

Zinc, in lozenge or syrup form, is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within at least 24 hours of onset of symptoms, according to a new report published in the Cochran Library.

Zinc is said to inhibit rhinoviral replication, and has been tested in trials for treatment of the common cold. The review identified 15 randomized controlled trials enrolling 1,360 participants aged 1 to 65 years, comparing zinc with placebo.

Researchers in India found that people who took zinc within 24 hours of symptom onset were over their colds about 1 day sooner than people who took placebos. They also found that people taking zinc are less likely to have persistence in their cold symptoms beyond 7 days of treatment. Zinc supplementation for at least 5 months reduces incidence, school absenteeism, and prescription of antibiotics for children with the common cold.Adverse events experienced by people taking zinc lozenges include 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, and asthma), the use of zinc currently cannot be recommended for them.

The researchers acknowledge that before making a general recommendation for zinc in the treatment of the common cold, 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.

“Anything that might help reduce the onset of a full-blown cold sounds like something worth trying,” Peggy C. Frank, CEO of Frank Public Relations Worldwide, a healthcare public relations firm in Los Angeles, told Formulary. “The possibility to reduce absenteeism from school and the workplace makes this study worthy of embracing. It might also be a great time to review protocols for disinfecting the workplace and schools to help thwart the airborne virus repeat performances.”