The Finnish people, like any population that faces long periods of cold weather and low humidity (otherwise known as winter), are prone to influenza and colds.
But the Finns are particularly good at medical research, so they turned their collective fair-haired noggins towards finding something that could shorten the duration of the two-week snot fest of the common cold. What they found was that supplemental zinc shortens the total duration of colds by 42%.
Suck on Some Zinc
The Finns have done studies on zinc and colds before, but the latest was an analysis of three prior studies. All three previous studies reported the effects of zinc on seven respiratory symptoms and three systemic symptoms. The current study pooled the results.
Participants took doses of zinc acetate, via lozenges, in doses of 80 to 92 mg a day, starting within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Here's what they found:
- Duration of nasal discharge shortened by 34%
- Duration of nasal congestion shortened by 37%
- Duration of sneezing shortened by 22%
- Duration of scratchy throat shortened by 33%
- Duration of sore throat shortened by 18%
- Duration of hoarseness shortened by 43%
- Duration of cough shortened by 46%
- Duration of muscle ache shortened by 54%
- Total duration of cold shortened by 42%
It was initially thought that the zinc had the greatest effect on the pharyngeal region (the part of the throat behind the nasal cavity, behind the mouth, and just above the esophagus and larynx), which is the area that would be directly exposed to the zinc. However, the zinc apparently had further-reaching effects, reducing symptoms in the nasal region and the body as a whole.
My recommendation would be to have some zinc lozenges on hand. If and when you start noticing sniffles, start sucking on them right away. Make sure the dosage is 80 to 92 milligrams per day. (There's yet no evidence that larger dosages will help. Besides, larger doses can cause side effects.) Continue with the lozenges for two weeks.
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- Hemila, H, Chalker, E. "The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis." BMC Fam Pract. 2015 Feb 25;16:24.