The lingering symptoms of a cold can stick with us for up to two weeks [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. That's a long time to deal with watery eyes, keep tissues close at hand and try to not have your feelings hurt when your pals do their best to avoid you.
So any reports that zinc may reduce the duration of a cold might have us running out to purchase cold remedies with the mineral as an ingredient. And it's true. Although controversial, there are some claims that zinc may cut back a cold's timeline. Keep in mind, though, that the evidence isn't conclusive. Additional research is needed. That said, there is some thought that dose and ingredient variation could be behind why some zinc-based cold medicines are more effective than others [source: National Institutes of Health].
Keeping that in mind, if you are taking a zinc-based medicine, what are the steps you can take to pump up its effectiveness? Consider the following:
- Start taking zinc at the first sign of symptoms -- within 48 hours if possible.
- Follow the package directions -- taking zinc frequently and as long as the directions advise.
- Do not under-dose; remember those directions.
- Expect possible side effects, such as nausea and an unpleasant taste.