Can Zinc Help If You Have A Cold?

Zinc-infused lozenges and syrups are popular choices for those fighting off cold symptoms, and many products claim to reduce the lifespan of the common cold. Is there any clinical validity to these claims? A 2020 meta-analysis study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found that cold duration was reduced by about 2 days from the use of zinc lozenges versus those who used a placebo. However, study findings were deemed biased, and design limitations could not determine any certainty of evidence. A more recent study published in BMJ Open in 2021 found that, for adults non-deficient in zinc, zinc supplementation shortened symptom duration. Once again, however, the quality of the evidence was limited.

It's even harder to make a case for zinc's efficacy after considering the results of one 2020 study published in BMJ Open. It found zinc to actually prolong the symptomatic lifespan of participants' colds, and those who took the placebo actually fared better. With all these mixed reviews, what can one do to ease cold symptoms faster?

Cold remedies that work

Health experts may not agree on the efficacy of zinc for cold relief, but there are a few things they do agree on that can help you feel better faster. Drinking enough fluids, particularly caffeine-free, clear liquids, can help you stay hydrated. Dehydration is more common with fluids like coffee, soda, and alcohol, so you'll want to avoid these until you recover. Common symptoms of dehydration are dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and urinating less, which can make battling a cold feel extra painful (via Theraflu). Additionally, drinking warm, caffeine-free fluids can help break up congestion. The best bets are herbal tea or warm water with lemon and honey (via the Mayo Clinic). 

Another all-natural home remedy that can help soothe cold symptoms is to gargle a bit of diluted saltwater. For fever, aches, and pains, over-the-counter pain relievers will likely do the trick. Finally, ensuring enough rest is essential for a speedy recovery.