Although zinc is a mineral found in relatively small amounts in your body, it may have applications in reducing the severity and duration of the common cold. Caused by a virus, the common cold has traditionally been considered difficult to treat, and patients have instead been advised to wait the cold out, using measures such as orange juice and ibuprofen to minimize symptoms. Since zinc may help to reduce your cold, it is important to understand what amounts to take to experience its potential benefits.
While some studies have shown that zinc does not reduce the common cold, a review from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that taking zinc lozenges within the first 24 hours of experiencing cold symptoms could help to reduce the duration of a cold by a day or more, according to "The New York Times." Additionally, taking zinc lozenges has been shown to reduce the severity of a cold.
Noticeably absent from the Cochrane study is a recommendation concerning the proper dose for zinc when treating a cold. "Over all, it appears that zinc does have an effect in controlling the common cold," said Dr. Meenu Singh, the lead author of the Cochrane study in an interview with "The New York Times." "But there still needs to be consensus about the dose."
Always speak to your physician before taking zinc or any supplement to ensure zinc will not interfere with medications you currently take. After you have obtained your physician's permission, start taking the zinc as soon as you experience cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes or sneezing. The University of Missouri Extension recommends taking between 13.3 and 23mg of zinc every two hours while you have cold symptoms. The university does not recommend taking this dosage for more than one week unless your physician recommends it.
Adverse side effects associated with excess zinc intake are possible, according to the University of Missouri Extension. These include an upset stomach or unpleasant taste in your mouth. Taking high amounts of zinc, such as the recommended dosages for a cold, also may interfere with your body's ability to absorb copper. As a result, you may wish to increase your copper intake while you are taking zinc. Continuing to take dosages of more than 100mg a day is associated with adverse side effects, such as increased risk for prostate cancer and suppressed immune system function. Because a cold should not last longer than roughly seven days, ceasing zinc supplementation after this time should help you avoid adverse effects.
- "The New York Times"; For Cold VIrus, Zinc May Edge Out Even Chicken Soup; Tara Parker-Pope; February 2011
- University of Missouri Extension; Treating the Common Cold With Zinc and Vitamin C; Susan Mills-Gray
- "Psychology Today"; Zinc and the Common Cold: Just the Facts; Martina Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D.; March 2011
- CBS News; Zinc a "Promising Treatment" for Common Cold; February 2011