Close this search box.

Does zinc really shorten a common cold?


The common cold, with its annoying symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, and persistent cough, is something we all dread. Among the various remedies touted to alleviate these symptoms, zinc has often been highlighted as a potential savior. But does zinc really shorten a common cold? Let’s explore the science behind this claim and understand if incorporating zinc into your regimen can help you recover faster.

Understanding the common cold

The common cold is a viral infection primarily affecting the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by various viruses, with rhinoviruses being the most common culprits. Symptoms typically include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and body aches. While the cold is usually mild and self-limiting, it can cause significant discomfort and disrupt daily activities.

How zinc works in the body

Zinc is an essential mineral involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It plays a vital role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also possesses antioxidant properties, which help combat oxidative stress and inflammation. Given these critical functions, it’s no surprise that zinc is recommended to bolster immune health and potentially reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.

Zinc and the common cold: What the research says

Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of zinc in shortening the duration of the common cold. A landmark study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1996 found that zinc lozenges significantly reduced the duration of cold symptoms. Participants who took zinc experienced a reduction in the duration of their colds by about 42% compared to those who did not take zinc.

Another comprehensive review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013 analyzed data from multiple studies and concluded that zinc, taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, could reduce the duration of a cold by an average of one day in healthy individuals. The review also noted that zinc appeared to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Best forms of zinc for colds

When considering zinc for cold treatment, the form and dosage are crucial. Zinc lozenges are common, as they are believed to work directly in the throat, where the cold virus often resides. Other forms include zinc gluconate and zinc acetate. However, be sure to take the recommended dosage, as excessive zinc intake can lead to adverse effects such as nausea, a metallic taste, and even interference with copper absorption, leading to deficiency over time.

How to use zinc effectively

To maximize the benefits of zinc, start taking it as soon as symptoms appear. The recommended dosage varies, but studies suggest that a dose of around 75 mg per day effectively reduces the duration of cold symptoms. Zinc lozenges should be taken every two to three hours during the day while awake, and be sure to follow the instructions on the product label or consult a health care professional for guidance.

Potential side effects of zinc

While zinc is generally safe when taken in appropriate amounts, there are potential side effects. High doses of zinc can cause gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Long-term use of high-dose zinc supplements can also lead to a deficiency in copper, another essential mineral, and impact immune function negatively. Therefore, it’s important to use zinc supplements judiciously and avoid exceeding the recommended daily intake.

Other benefits of zinc

Beyond its potential role in shortening the duration of the common cold, zinc offers several other health benefits. Zinc is essential for normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. It supports cognitive function, maintains healthy vision, and assists skin health and wound healing. Zinc’s antioxidant properties also contribute to reducing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which link to various chronic diseases.

Combining zinc with other treatments

While zinc can be effective in reducing cold symptoms, it’s beneficial to combine it with other supportive treatments. Staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and using over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms can enhance recovery. Additionally, maintaining a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports overall immune function and helps the body combat infections more effectively.


So, does zinc really shorten a common cold? The evidence suggests that it can. Zinc, particularly in the form of lozenges taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms. However, it’s essential to use zinc appropriately and be mindful of the potential side effects of high doses. Combining zinc with other supportive measures can further enhance recovery and help you return to your daily routine sooner.

When battling the common cold, it’s always a good idea to consult with a health care professional before starting any new supplement regimen to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your individual health needs. With the right approach, you can harness the benefits of zinc to potentially shorten the uncomfortable days of a cold and support your immune system in staying resilient against future infections.


This story was created using AI technology.