They call it the common cold because it is that… one of the most widespread illnesses in the world and a leading cause of time lost from school or work, and visits to the doctor despite there being no universal cold remedy. In fact, there are approximately one billion colds in the U.S. each year, happening most often in the winter (or rainy) season.
Colds are a truly miserable experience for most people, and can bring on complications like ear infections, sinus infections and exacerbation of other airway conditions like asthma. As yet, there is no definitive treatment or cure for the common cold, however we may be getting a step closer with the benefits of zinc.
Zinc… in syrup, tablet or lozenge form can really ease the severity and shorten the duration of a cold according to a detailed review of existing scientific evidence.
Taking some form of this essential mineral within the first 24 hours of your symptoms appearing can speed recovery from a cold. Not only that, zinc may also help hold off an oncoming cold according to the review of 15 randomized, controlled trials that involved 1,360 otherwise healthy subjects of all ages. Each study did use different treatment timing and dosage.
The trial also found that no matter what form, if the zinc was taken within 24 hours of the start of cold symptoms, the seriousness and length of time spent ill was reduced.
After a week, more of those who took zinc every few hours were free of symptoms when compared to those who had a placebo treatment. What’s more, kids who took zinc lozenges or 15 mg of zinc syrup each day for at least five months ended up with fewer colds and missed less time away from school as a result.
Zinc might also help boost the immune system and thus dampen some of the uncomfortable bodily reactions when subjected to an invading virus. Things like mucus gland secretions (runny nose), sneeze and cough reflexes, stimulation of pain nerve fibers (headache, sore throat) and fever are all unpleasant side effects that come as a result of the body trying to rid itself of an infection.
On average, experts estimate that adults catch between two and four colds each year. Kids catch as many as ten colds per year. And though we might try, it’s awfully hard to avoid an infection where the viruses responsible (over 200 of them) are so common, and so easily transmitted from person to person. Coughs and sneezes send the virus into the air, where you can breathe it in. Touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after touching contaminated surfaces (door handles, phones, keyboards) and you’re also likely to end up with a cold.
Once you catch a cold, you’re most contagious during the first 2 to 3 days, not at all contagious by day 7 to 10.
And while there’s no proven “cure” for a cold, there are things you can do to stay healthy and lessen the chance of infection.
Proper hand washing is key, as is keeping the cold virus from entering your system via one of its favorite pathways, the thin skin lining your nose. Pay attention to how often you touch your face, and as this research suggests, consider zinc medication as a way to halt the virus in its tracks if it does manage to reach your nasal cavities.
It’s the toxicity concerns that keep patients from being told to take zinc for long periods. Too much can bring on nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen and diarrhea. Study subjects who took zinc did report side effects like an unpleasant lingering aftertaste or feeling nauseous, compared to those taking the placebo.
More work needs to be carried out to find out what how to maximize the benefits of zinc, as experts are still having a hard time making recommendations for how much zinc to take, what form is best or how long you need to take it to make it an effective cold remedy.