Do You Have Cold Symptoms? Don’t Reach For Zinc

I have been known to reach for vitamin C pills and lozenges at my very first sniffle, but it turns out that this is not good health advice. Our seasonally savvy colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports tell us that while it feels good to do something when you feel a viral illness coming on, a fistful of zinc lozenges isn’t the best idea.

Why’s that? While you might feel like zinc is stopping your cold in its tracks or relieving your symptoms, that may not be the case. The best way to test a medical intervention is through controlled clinical trials compared with a placebo. While some studies have showed that colds don’t last as long in a person who takes zinc supplements, they don’t stop colds or make the symptoms less severe.

It’s easy to overdose on zinc, which in turn can cause other health problems like nausea and vomiting. Generally, unless you’ve been told otherwise by a health care provider, a healthy adult shouldn’t get more than 40 milligrams of zinc per day.

There’s one really, really good reason to reconsider zinc remedies: you may remember Zicam, a zinc-containing nasal gel that caused some people to lose their sense of smell permanently after using some Zicam products.

6 reasons not to take zinc for your cold [Consumer Reports]