Does Zinc Work for Cold?

You are feeling stuffed up, sneezy, and experiencing all the other symptoms of a cold. At this point, you just want to get any relief you can, even if it just decreases the length of your cold. You may wonder if zinc for colds can actually make a difference.

Does Zinc Work for Colds?

It may not be certain about the answer. Some studies show yes, while others say no.


A recent analysis looked at multiple studies. The combined results showed the zinc in the form of syrup or lozenges did reduce the cold by about a day, particularly if it was consumed within 24 hours after the first cold symptoms.

Other studies have shown that regularly taking zinc may help reduce the frequency of colds, along with the quantity of missed days of school or work, and how many antibiotics are required for children who are otherwise healthy.

In the typical case, a cold is due to rhinovirus, a virus that multiplies and thrives within the upper respiratory system, including the throat and nasal passages. Experts believe that zinc may stop this rhinovirus from multiplying. Additionally, it may prevent rhinovirus from getting lodges within your nose and throat’s mucous membranes.

According to research, zinc for colds might be more effective if it is taken as a lozenge or syrup since this lets it stay within your throat, giving it the chance to come in direct contact with the sickness-causing rhinovirus.


Recent analyses didn’t actually recommend zinc. That is because no studies had sufficient participants for results to be conclusive. Additionally, each study used a different preparation (syrup or lozenge) and dosage of zinc for a different length of time. With so many factors at play, it is impossible to determine what treatment schedule and dosage would be ideal.

This means that at the moment, studies regarding zinc for the cold treatment are inconclusive. Most experts will say that if zinc does show advantages, they are minor.

Be Aware of Side Effects of Zinc

If you are contemplating taking zinc for colds, you should also be aware of its potential side effects. Because of this, you should ideally talk to your medical professional before you take this substance to decrease the length of colds or prevent colds.

Taking zinc for the short term, which is less than five days, won’t cause any serious side effects. Even so, you may notice minor side effects such as an upset stomach, metallic taste, or irritated mouth.

You should never take zinc for over five days unless specifically directed and monitored by your doctor. Long-term use lasting over six weeks may lead to a deficiency of copper.

Taking too much zinc can also cause a range of health issues, including neurological issues, reduced good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and increased risk for prostate cancer. To make it worse, many zinc supplements have cadmium which is natural but can lead to kidney failure with long-term exposure in high levels.

Another concern related to zinc is that it can interact with certain prescription medications. If you take it and are on quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics like ciprofloxacin, your body’s absorption of both the antibiotic and zinc will reduce. Zinc can also negatively affect absorption of penicillamine which is used to treat Wilson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you do use zinc for colds, avoid nasal preparations as they can cause loss of sense of smell. In some cases, this is permanent.

Consider These Natural Remedies for Cold

Since zinc may or may not work, you should turn to other natural remedies that have more conclusive research supporting them.

1. Stay Hydrated

Drink lots of water, clear broth, juice, or warm water with lemon and honey. This will lessen your congestion and prevent dehydration. Don’t consume caffeinated soda, coffee, or alcohol as this can worsen dehydration. Getting enough rest will help your body heal.

2. Soothe a Sore Throat

There are multiple natural remedies for the sore throat associated with a cold. Make a saltwater gargle by dissolving ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle this and experience relief. Remember that those under 6 probably can’t gargle correctly so this method should be avoided with young children.

Lozenges, sore throat sprays, hard candy, and ice chips can also help soothe the throat. Just don’t give hard candy or lozenges to those under 3 or 4 since there is a choking hazard.

3. Fight Stuffiness

If you are feeling stuffy or congested from the cold, consider an over-the-counter saline spray or nasal drop.

4. Add Moisture into the Air

Use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to help increase the moisture in your home and loosen congestion. Remember to change the water every day.

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