Does Zinc Help Treat Colds?

Zinc is a necessary mineral. While you don't need much of it, it's important to make sure you're getting enough zinc in your diet, because your body can't produce it on its own. It's especially important for pregnant women, as it contributes to fetal development. Children and young people need the mineral because it helps the body produce proteins and DNA (via WebMD). 

But it's not just pregnant women and the young who need zinc. The mineral aids the body in healing wounds, burns, and some ulcers. Our skin also needs zinc to synthesize collagen. It may also aid in the reduction of some age-related diseases, like macular degeneration. Because of its antioxidant properties, zinc decreases inflammation. That means it may reduce the risk of a host of health conditions — including heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and other chronic illnesses, per Healthline. But how does zinc measure up to treating the common cold?

Zinc might help the duration and severity of colds

Evidence suggests that zinc could be useful for treating a cold. A meta-analysis of 13 trials showed that zinc helped to both shorten colds and lessen symptoms — if it was taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. In addition, when people supplemented their diet with zinc for five months, they had fewer colds, and children needed fewer antibiotics. There are some side effects to be aware of, however. Verywell Health reports that nasal sprays can result in loss of smell (either temporarily or permanently). Additionally, zinc lozenges may cause some people to experience nausea or have a bad taste in their mouth.

If you're thinking about taking zinc for your symptoms, you should do it as soon as you begin to feel like you're getting a cold. There are many forms of zinc, and over-the-counter supplements can contain either one form or a combination of them. While there is no pre-determined amount to take, a study showed that 75 milligrams a day was enough to shorten colds by up to 48%. It's always a good idea to speak with your doctor about any concerns you have before taking zinc or any other supplements.