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Zinc for the common cold? Not for me

February 17, 2011
  • By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

About the Author

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Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Pat Skerrett is the editor of STAT's First Opinion and host of the First Opinion podcast. He is the former editor of the Harvard Health blog and former Executive Editor of Harvard Health Publishing. Before that, he was editor of … See Full Bio
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Elizabeth Go
December 5, 2011

I’m totally agree with you. “At the first sign of a cold, I’m headed to the kitchen to make chicken noodle soup”. Yes, indeed it works for me. Thanks a lot!

Susan Childs
October 7, 2011

Taking traditional chinese medicines are also good for the common cold. This form of medication is more holisticas most of the ingredients are natural herbs. Precaution must be taken to ensure its prescribed by a licenced chinese medicine doctor only.
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September 13, 2011

Maintaining health is better than cure. Enter a grocery that also can function as a drug / can prevent the arrival of the disease, such as vegetable soup that contains lots of vitamins, which is useful to keep in shape.

Graeme Creed
August 1, 2011

I have been taking a zinc tablet with breakfast for over 30 years. I am now 64 and have only taken three sick days from work in 23 years.
Zinc builds up the immune system over years, not just when you have a cold. Zinc also assits with healthy skin and aids healing.

Nev Smith
July 12, 2011

Agreed on getting zinc from food rather than pills but must say that my aunt has been using the lozenges for colds and it seems to work for her also!
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June 8, 2011

I’ve been taking zinc preparations at the first sign of a cold for six or seven years and have found that they work for me. I’ve had no problems with nausea, cold sores, etc. The editor’s note strikes me as prissy to the point of near hysteria over the possibility that someone, somewhere might experience a minor side effect. Yes, several dozen people apparently lost their sense of smell from using Zicam nasal gel (which I used dozens of times without adverse effect), and that’s certainly serious, but (1) that was a tiny subset of Zicam users; (2) the product is no longer on the market; (3) millions of people have been taking zinc lozenges for twenty years without serious reported side effects; and (4) there’s no evidence to suggest that sucking on a zinc lozenge has the possibility of causing loss of the sense of smell.

May 11, 2011

Zinc absolutely works for me. At the first sign of cold, tingling sensation in the back of throat or nose, I take Redoxon Effervescent(Zinc 10mg + Vitamin 1000mg) and without fail, the symptoms go away in quickly, usually three or four tablets would do the trick.

I moved from NY to Singapore and was suffering lots of skin infections and colds. My housekeeper in Singapore taught me the trick of Zinc and Vitamin C. I was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try. Ever since then I had no more incidence of skin infection and I can’t remember the last time I had a full blown cold. I wouldn’t take zinc lozenge because most of them taste so bad and wouldn’t use intranasal spray and risk losing sense of smell because I love food and 90% of flavor comes from the nose.

For the non-believers of zinc, good luck to you.

May 5, 2011

We can speculate all we want, but the fact of the matter is that ever since I started taking zinc lozenges, I’ve never had a cold like the kinds I used to get before discovering zinc lozenges. It’s been seven years now. I keep a sealed bag of lozenges on-hand. As soon as I feel post nasal drip, I start taking them. As advertised, the duration and severity are, at minimum, cut in half. They work very, very well!

March 24, 2011

Didn’t anyone ever hear of getting zinc from food? That’s the way to go, instead of some pill or lozenge. So you might want to put a couple of oysters in your chicken noodle soup 🙂

February 22, 2011

We agree that this Cochrane meta-analysis received far too much media attention with unsafe consequences. National coverage will lead to millions of people taking a dangerous additive in hopes of stopping a cold. Far more convincing data are required before the public can be told that zinc has any beneficial effect. We do know that intranasal zinc can damage the sensory nerves of smell.

Helen Hoart
February 22, 2011

I used to take zinc lozenges when I felt a cold coming on. But I stopped for two reasons. As reported in your blog, the zinc caused nausea. But I also noticed I always developed a cold sore when taking zinc. The zinc did seem to shorten the cold by a day but the cold sore stayed around forever, it seemed, so now no zinc for me. I’d rather deal with a cold than an upset stomach and a nasty cold sore.

J Gottlieb
February 20, 2011

My husband (71) and I (65) have been taking zinc (the mineral tablets, not the lozenges) for years at first signs of a cold. Sorry to disappoint you but for us, it totally works. We may still get a cold, but not nearly as severe….it seems to run its course much more quickly if at all. The tablets are easily purchases in any pharmacy (we once needed them while vacationing in Spain) and are under $5.00 for a bottle.

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