A cold is a viral infection which affects the throat, nose and sinuses.
It usually clears up within a week or two but sometimes the symptoms can last three weeks.
According to multiple studies, though, taking zinc acetate lozenges can shorten a cold from a week to just four days.
The lozenges are available in health shops and local pharmacies and mostly effective when taken within 24 hours of the cold starting.
Zinc acetate lozenges are more effective than swallowing pills since the lozenges dissolve in the mouth.
The zinc ions are spread into saliva and then to the throat (pharyngeal region) and they also travel up into the nasal passages.
Therefore, by attacking the virus in the throat and nasal passages they work better on sore throats and nasal symptoms.
Dr Harri Hemila, the study’s lead author, said:
“Ordinary tablets that enter directly into the stomach, without releasing zinc in the pharyngeal [throat] region, are not effective.”
The recommended dosage is 80 mg per day and it shouldn’t exceed 100 mg per day.
Dr Harri Hemila and his colleague Elizabeth Chalker, in their previous study published in BMC Family Practice suggested:
“Zinc acetate lozenges releasing zinc ions at doses of about 80 mg/day may be a useful treatment for the common cold, started within 24 hours, for a time period of less than two weeks.”
The previous study showed that zinc lozenges also reduce the duration of cold symptoms, including reducing:
- coughing by 46%,
- nasal congestion by 37%,
- a scratchy throat by 33%,
- sneezing by 22%,
- hoarseness by 43%,
- sore throat by 18%,
- and muscle aches by 54%.
Patients in this study took, on average, 1 lozenge containing 9 mg zinc every 2 hours while awake and the total dosage was between 80 and 92 mg per day.
The researchers found that, compared to the placebo group, the colds of patients who took zinc lozenges were three days shorter than the full-length week-long cold.
Dr Hemila advised:
“Common cold patients should be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds.”
The study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (Hemilä et al., 2016).
Sneezing image from Shutterstock