Zinc For the Common Cold Can Cause Nausea as a Side Effect


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How Much Will Zinc Reduce The Duration Of Your Cold?

Zinc may reduce your cold by a few days, but is it worth it? Image by Greg Robson

The studies have consistently shown the reduction of cold symptoms through the use of oral zinc preparations, but how much shorter is ‘shorter?’ Not much, according to Dr. Science. She says that the research team found that, “oral zinc preparations taken at the onset of a cold slightly reduced the average amount of time a person will have symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion. However, the reduction was relatively minor – less than two days, on average. We also found that these benefits would have to be balanced against the undesirable effects such as bad taste and nausea.

Zinc May Not Work For Kids

Despite the fact that oral zinc preparations are marketed to kids as well as adults, the study showed that kids may not receive a benefit. Dr. Science tells us that, “It is important to point out that a benefit was found only in otherwise healthy adults, not children. However, there were very few studies involving children. In general, the studies varied greatly in their methods and results, which made it challenging to arrive at clear conclusions.”

Zinc For Colds: Recommendations

Decoded Science asked Dr. Science about her recommendations for the use of zinc for colds. She responded that, “Although it is possible that oral zinc preparations impact symptoms of the common cold, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend its use in children and only a weak rationale for use in otherwise healthy adults. Further large, high-quality trials are needed before definitive recommendations for clinical practices can be made. Adverse or undesirable effects were common. The decision to use zinc should take into consideration the questionable benefits, balanced against the potential adverse effects.  The decision to use zinc may also be impacted by the treatment regimens tested in the adult studies, which some may consider to be onerous, involving lozenges dissolved in the mouth every 2 hours.”

Should You Take Zinc For Your Cold?

Zinc may shorten a cold by a day or two, but is it worth the adverse effects of nausea and the a bad taste in your mouth you may experience as a result? Only you can decide, but don’t forget to ask your doctor for advice about your particular health situation before starting any new treatment. Either way, Dr. Science and her colleagues agree that more evidence and research is needed before physicians start prescribing zinc to shorten colds.


American Lung Association. Facts about the common cold. Accessed May 7, 2012.

Science, M., Johnstone, J., Roth, D., et. al. Zinc for the treatment of the common cold: a systematic review and meta -analysis of randomized control trials. (2012). Canadian Medical Association Journal. DOI:10.1503. Accessed May 7, 2012.

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