I used to absolutely swear by Zicam intranasal gel for the common cold, but alas, the FDA pulled it off the market because people who used it incorrectly had a bad habit of losing their sense of smell.   I never seemed to have much success with zinc lozenges so I had given up hope on treating colds unless I could ever find any black market Zicam (no luck when scouring the internet).  Anyway, next cold, I’m trying the lozenges again.  In a major review, scientists have concluded that zinc really does work against colds:

A sweeping new review of the medical research on zinc shows that sniffing,sneezing, coughing and stuffy-headed cold sufferers finally have a better option than just tissue and chicken soup. When taken within 24 hours of the first runny nose or sore throat, zinc lozenges, tablets or syrups can cut coldsshort by an average of a day or more and sharply reduce the severity of symptoms, according to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a respected medical clearinghouse.

In some of the cited studies, the benefits of zinc were significant. A March 2008 report in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, for example, found that zinc lozenges cut the duration of colds to four days from seven days, and reduced coughing to two days from five.

What’s really annoying, however, is that they give you essentially no practical advice when their are dozens of zinc products out there and some are clearly much more efficiacious than others:

While the findings are certain to send droves of miserable cold sufferers to the drugstore in search of zinc treatments, the study authors offered no guidance on what type of zinc product to buy. The authors declined to make recommendations about the optimal dose, formulation or duration of zinc use, saying that more work was needed before they could make recommendations.

Not sure which ones to use, but next time I start getting a cold, its’ definitely zinc lozenge time.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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