Zinc lozenges may be good for a cold, but more research is needed to promote their use.
Stuffy nose? Sneezing? Sore throat? These major three culprits are symptoms of the common cold. The common cold usually peaks during early fall, mid-winter, and early spring. A few studies have shown that zinc is beneficial against the common cold when taken within 24 hours of symptom presentation. But, can zinc cure a common cold?
Zinc is a mineral present in our body in very small amounts, and it plays an important role in our immune system. Zinc supplements are found in various formulations and are available as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or lozenge. Lozenges are the more popular remedy for the cold to help soothe the sore throat.
A 2020 Finnish study looked at the effectiveness of zinc acetate lozenges in treating the common cold. Researchers randomized 253 applicants to receive either a zinc lozenge (13mg) or a placebo lozenge. The participants were instructed to dissolve one lozenge slowly in the mouth, six times per day for five days (total zinc daily dose of 78 milligrams). Only 87 of the 253 participants self-reported with the common cold and were included in the study. These participants answered a daily web-based questionnaire. The self-reports continued until the participant made a full recovery or until the 10th day. The participants were also free to report adverse effects, such as stomachaches, taste problems, and other undesirable effects of the lozenges.
The researchers found no evidence of increased recovery rate between those taking zinc or placebo lozenges throughout the 10-day follow-up. The recovery rate between the zinc and placebo groups was the same. The researchers also pointed out that those in the zinc group recovered considerably slower than the placebo group, although these findings were not statistically significant. However, the researchers do state that their findings do not overturn previous positive studies of zinc lozenges treating the common cold, but that further research is necessary to confirm previous studies and determine the optimal dose.
The researchers believe that this study can be further improved by using slower dissolving lozenges, confirming an effective treatment dose and duration, and masking the bad taste of zinc. More studies are needed to justify the use of zinc lozenges to clinically treat the common cold.
Written by Manuel Bangsil, PharmD, MBA, BCMAS
- Hemilä, H. (2011). Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 5(1), 51-58. doi: 10.2174/1874306401105010051
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Zinc. (2020). Retrieved 29 January 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#en52
- Hemilä, H., Haukka, J., Alho, M., Vahtera, J., & Kivimäki, M. (2020). Zinc acetate lozenges for the treatment of the common cold: a randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open, 10(1), e031662. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031662
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