Zinc Nasal Gel Reduces Duration and Severity of the Common Cold
The use of a zinc nasal gel spray reduces the duration of the common cold, according to a new study in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine (2003;96:35–43).
More than one billion colds occur in the United States each year, making it the most common acute illness and leading reason for healthcare visits. It is generally a mild viral illness characterized by a wide array of symptoms which can include runny nose, scratchy or sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, headache, and sometimes muscle aches and fever. Supplementation with vitamin C or echinacea has been shown to shorten the duration of colds in some studies, although not all studies agree. Medications such as decongestants, cough suppressants, and analgesics for pain and fever can sometimes offer temporary symptom relief. Minor side effects from these drugs can include sedation or over-excitation.
Zinc is a trace mineral found in meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some whole grains. It is an essential nutrient for normal function of the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and direct antiviral properties, all contributing to its potential as an agent to treat the common cold. In fact, a number of studies have examined the effectiveness of zinc, in the form of lozenges, in treating colds, and although study methods have been inconsistent, results of well-designed studies confirm its benefits.
Eighty otherwise healthy people with cold symptoms persisting for 24 to 48 hours entered the current study. They were randomly assigned to either a group receiving a nasal gel spray containing zinc gluconicum or a group receiving a placebo nasal gel spray. Participants were instructed to use the sprays four times per day until their symptoms resolved, but not for more than ten days. This use of the zinc nasal gel spray provided 2.1 mg of zinc per day. The zinc group experienced a significantly shorter duration of their colds compared with the placebo group. The average number of days until complete resolution of illness was 4.3 days in the zinc group and 6 days in the placebo group. Moreover, the severity of symptoms, evaluated through questionnaire scores, was significantly lower in the zinc group from day 2 through day 7 of the study. The most prominent symptoms (sore throat, runny nose, and nasal congestion) were the most significantly affected by the use of zinc. No significant side effects were seen.
This study found that a nasal gel spray with zinc gluconicum shortened the duration and severity of the common cold. These results are consistent with the results of one previous study using the same preparation, but another trial using a nasal spray providing only 0.044 mg of zinc sulfate per day did not find an effect. One previous trial found zinc gluconate nasal spray not to be effective in preventing or influencing the severity of symptoms of the common cold. Future trials involving large numbers of participants and adequate amounts of zinc will help to determine the dosages, time frame for treatment, and forms of zinc that most effectively treat the common cold.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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