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Can Zinc Shorten The Common Cold?

Can Zinc Shorten The Common Cold?

Can Zinc Shorten The Common Cold?


Nobody likes catching a cold. It's not usually severe, but it sure is annoying. When we get a stuffy nose, begin to cough, or have a sore throat, we often rush to our medicine box to find something to feel better quickly.

One of the cold remedies to consider is zinc. Using zinc significantly when a cold starts can help make it shorter. Zinc comes in different forms like zinc sulfate and oral zinc, which you can take to boost your zinc levels and reduce the duration of cold symptoms. This is helpful because not having enough zinc, known as zinc deficiency, can make you catch colds more often, especially if you are at high risk due to frequent exposure.

It's important to know that taking zinc should be done carefully. Zinc supplementation has some side effects if you use too much, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, when used in the right amount, zinc can have beneficial effects.

Understanding the Common Cold

First, let's talk about what a cold is.

A cold is like a tiny bug attacking our nose and throat. It's a widespread sickness that can make us feel not too good about things like:

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Feeling stuffy
  • Sneezing a lot
  • Watery eyes
  • A little headache
  • Sore muscles

Colds come from germs called viruses; the main one is a rhinovirus. There are also other germs like coronaviruses and a few more that can make us catch a cold.

Cold germs are sneaky and can travel from one person to another. This happens if someone coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth. Those germs can fly out, and someone else might breathe them in or touch something the germs landed on. You might get a cold if you feel your face after touching those germs, like your nose or eyes. This is why it is essential to seek medical care if symptoms last longer than 10 days without getting better or if there is trouble breathing or dehydration. Understanding the common cold and when to seek medical care is crucial for managing and preventing its spread.

For young children, it's essential to keep clean because they might touch their faces a lot and can catch colds easily. A thorough hand wash can help keep the germs away.

Scientists do a lot of research, called a systematic review, to learn how to keep us healthy. They found interesting things, such as how the level of zinc in our body, called serum zinc levels, is really important for zinc absorption from our diet. Zinc isn't just for colds; it does other cool things in our bodies. However, research also suggests that low levels of serum zinc may be associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and sickle cell disease, making it essential to maintain adequate levels of zinc in the body.

For example, zinc oxide is used in creams that help with wound healing. Zinc is also important for our sense of smell and can even help with eye diseases like macular degeneration, which is a big word for a problem in our eyes that can make it hard to see.

But when discussing minerals like zinc, we have to be careful. If we take too much zinc, that can lead to not having enough of another mineral called copper in our body. This is known as copper deficiency. It's like a balancing act—we must have the right amounts of both to stay healthy. Zinc deficiency can also lead to hair loss, making it essential to monitor our zinc intake to prevent this potential side effect.

Managing Cold Symptoms

Even though there's no cure for the common cold, we can still do things to help us feel better while our bodies fight off the illness:

  • Rest: It's essential to give our bodies a break and let them rest, which helps them get more robust and fight the cold.
  • Hydration: Drinking lots of fluids, like water, juice, and soup, helps keep our bodies hydrated and makes it easier to deal with the cold.
  • Humidifiers: A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can improve throat comfort and clear up stuffiness.
  • Nutraceuticals: This big word means healthy things like vitamins and minerals in certain foods or supplements. Some herbs that help our immune system can also be beneficial when we have a cold by helping our body handle the symptoms better and recover quicker.

Nutrients That Can Make a Difference

Some foods we eat can help our bodies fight off germs better and might even make a cold less annoying or help it go away quicker. One of these special things is called zinc. Ensuring we get enough zinc, called zinc intake, is like giving our body's germ-fighting power a big boost.

Zinc can be found in different forms, like zinc citrate, a type you might see in vitamins at the store. Sometimes, people need more zinc from their food, especially if they are trying to eat less for weight loss or if their body needs more zinc. When this happens, they might need extra zinc, known as supplemental zinc, to help with zinc absorption. Breakfast cereals, often fortified with zinc, are a significant source of zinc in the U.S. diet. In fact, in U.S. children and adolescents, 12.1% to 18.4% of daily zinc intakes come from enriched and fortified foods, making it an essential nutrient in the United States. Therefore, incorporating breakfast cereals into your diet can make a difference in your zinc intake and potentially help shorten the common cold.

Taking a zinc supplement, such as zinc sulfate, can be especially important because zinc is like a superhero for our immune function – that’s our body’s way of fighting off germs and staying healthy. Before taking extra zinc or any supplement, talking to a health care provider is a great idea. They know how much of these particular nutrients our bodies need and can tell you the right amount to take so you don’t take too much. The right amount is called elemental zinc, the pure zinc our body uses.

Sometimes, scientists do a special kind of science experiment called a clinical trial, such as the AREDS2 randomized clinical trial, to see precisely how nutrients like zinc and beta-carotene help us. They can find out if taking a zinc supplement helps people not get sick as often or if it can help prevent vision loss. Beta carotene is also an essential nutrient to consider, as it has been studied in clinical trials for its potential benefits in preventing age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.

Let’s look at some vitamins that are like superheroes for our immune system:

  • Vitamin C: This vitamin boosts our immune system and protects our body. It can help fight off the cold, make symptoms less annoying, and sometimes even make the cold go away faster.
  • Vitamin D is like having extra security guards in our body. It helps some of our white blood cells—tiny cells fighting germs—do their job better. Getting enough Vitamin D might keep us from getting sick so often, especially with colds.
  • Vitamin A: Think of Vitamin A as keeping the inside of our nose and throat in good shape. This helps us fight off the cold and keeps our immune system healthy. We must be careful, though, because too much Vitamin A is not suitable for us.
  • Vitamin E works alongside Vitamin C as another shield for our body. It helps our immune system stay strong. Like Vitamin A, we don't want too much of it because having more than we need doesn't help us more.

Focusing on Zinc

Zinc is like a superhero for our cells—it's crucial for our immune system and helps fight against nasty bacteria and viruses that want to make us sick. Here's something super cool: if you start taking oral zinc supplements within the first 24 hours when you feel a cold coming on, they can shorten your cold! One review source of 7 studies showed that zinc lozenges containing 80–92 mg of zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by up to 33%, making it a valuable tool in reducing the length of colds.

Scientists have done detective work and examined many studies to understand this better. They found two main zinc lozenges – zinc acetate and zinc gluconate. When people used lozenges with zinc acetate, their colds improved 40% faster. With zinc gluconate lozenges, colds are enhanced by 28%. However, some studies also suggest that using zinc nasal spray when first showing signs of a cold, such as a runny nose, can reduce symptoms' duration and severity. While not all studies agree, incorporating zinc into your cold-fighting routine may be beneficial.

Regarding how much zinc you should take, the head scientist says that taking between 80 to 92 milligrams of zinc per day works just as well as taking a lot more. So, if you take more than 100 milligrams, it doesn’t help any more than the smaller amount.

Let's dive deeper into Zinc's superhero roles:

Immune Cell Development and Function: Zinc is essential for T cells, which are like the spies of our immune system, always on the lookout for germs to attack. It's also key for B cells, which make weapons called antibodies to fight off invaders. Plus, it's needed for Natural Killer cells, like the special forces that take out infected cells.

Antioxidant Defense: Zinc protects our body's cells from bad molecules called free radicals, which show up when our body is fighting an infection.

Cytokine Production: Zinc helps control chemicals in our bodies called cytokines. They're like messengers that tell our immune system what to do, like sending troops to fight an infection or telling the body to cool down the inflammation.

Barrier Function: Just like a strong fence keeps out unwanted guests, zinc keeps our skin and the lining inside our noses and throats healthy so germs can't easily get into our bodies.

Gene Regulation: Zinc is like a coach; it helps the body determine which genes need to be turned on or off during an immune response.

If we don’t get enough zinc, our immune system can get weak, and we might get sick more often, have more inflammation, or even have trouble growing properly if we're still kids. That’s why zinc is a big deal for staying healthy!


In conclusion, while catching a cold is never fun, there are ways to help our bodies fight off those pesky germs. Resting, staying hydrated, and using a humidifier makes us feel better. And remember the superhero nutrients, especially zinc! Taking zinc lozenges or syrup at the first sneeze or sniffle is the secret weapon you need to shorten your cold. Remember, getting the right amount of zinc is essential—not too little, not too much. So, the next time you feel a cold coming on, consider reaching for some zinc to help your immune system win the battle faster. If you need some extra zinc in your repertoire or have a history of developing the common cold often enough, check out our Upgraded Zinc to have in your stash as a preventative! Stay strong, and keep those germs at bay!

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