Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Can Taking Zinc Help To Cure A Cold?

What Is A Common Cold?

Are you suffering from a cold at the moment?  If you are, then you are definitely not alone, and you are probably looking at up to seven days of feeling ill and miserable. These viral infections are known as the common cold for a reason, as on average adults catch two to four of them a year, and young children can catch as many as ten, probably because their immune system’s are not as well developed as an adult’s.  You are more likely to catch a cold during the chilly winter months, and women are more likely to develop a cold than men.  The common cold is a minor virus infection, and as there are over 200 viruses that can trigger a cold, you are unlikely to build up immunity to them all. So what symptoms can you look forward to when you develop a cold? Typically the symptoms of a cold are coughing, sneezing, sore throat, streaming eyes and nose, and a general feeling of being unwell. If your cold is more severe you may experience a high temperature, aching limbs and headaches.  Common colds are self-limiting infections and your symptoms will more than likely subside within a week, but you may be surprised to know that for all the medical expertise and knowledge we now have in the world, there is not yet a cure for the common cold or anything to really prevent them developing.

Is Zinc an Effective Cold Remedy?

The cold virus is easily spread by coughing and sneezing, and you can also pick up a cold by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.  So one way to help ward off a cold is to wash your hands frequently, and try and avoid putting your hands near your mouth and eyes.  There are also some supplements that are supposed to boost your immune system and help you to resist catching cold such as Vitamin C and echinacea, but their benefits have not been proven and they will not cure your cold.  However, experts have now announced that they believe that taking the essential mineral zinc, in the form of zinc tablets, lozenges or syrup, within a day of your cold symptoms starting may help you to recover more swiftly from your symptoms and even help you resist catching the cold in the first place.  The Cochrane Systemic Review collated data from 15 different trials that involved 1360 people and compared the efficacy of zinc against a placebo for treating the common cold.  The trials found that more of the patients who had been given zinc to take every couple of hours during the course of their cold were symptom free after seven days than the cold sufferers who had taken a placebo. It was also found that the children who had been given zinc lozenges or zinc syrup to take daily for at least five months had contracted colds less frequently and had also missed less days of school.  However, all the trials were based on different criteria, the length of the trials were different as were the dosages of zinc given, so the experts have found it difficult to reach a conclusive view of exactly how successful zinc is in combating the symptoms of the common cold.

 How Does Zinc Work Against Colds?

So how do the health experts think that the zinc works against the cold virus? It is thought that zinc works on the cold virus by coating it and stopping it from getting into the body through the delicate lining of the nose.  Tests in the laboratory also showed that that zinc helped by stopping the cold virus replicating itself, which would mean that it could not spread through the body and cause infection. The results from the trials also suggested that taking zinc could help to boost the immune system, and also lessen the severity of the cold symptoms being experienced. These trials show that taking zinc could be a very beneficial addition to the fight against the common cold, as although there are currently lots of OTC cold remedies on the market, most of them do not put a stop to the symptoms of the cold or diminish their severity.  So should we all rush out and start taking zinc supplements so that we can recover from our colds more quickly and even prevent them altogether? The researchers who amassed the data for the Cochrane Systemic Review and the health experts have been cautious about making any recommendations about the use of zinc, as they came to no firm conclusions regarding the optimal dosage, formulation or length of time that the zinc should be taken. Some of the patients who took the zinc during the trials experienced some unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, diarrhoea and an unpleasant aftertaste, that were not felt by those taking the placebo. So before zinc can be universally regarded as a common cold remedy by medical professionals, further research needs to be done on the dosage, treatment length and possible adverse side effects.

However, if you would like to see if you could help to ward off colds or reduce the severity of your cold symptoms by taking zinc, you will find that there are already many different zinc supplements on the market.  You can buy zinc syrup, tablets, sprays and lozenges, although allowing zinc lozenges to dissolve slowly in your mouth is one of the best ways to absorb the mineral.  You can also buy supplements that combine zinc with Vitamin C, other minerals or echinacea, most of which are designed to boost your immune system and fight off infections, such as colds.  If you have any underlying chronic health conditions or are at all concerned about starting to take zinc supplements, you should consult your medical practitioner.  Of course, the most natural way to get enough zinc is to ensure that your diet contains adequate supplies of zinc rich foods.  Oysters are a very good source of zinc, as is red meat, crab, lobster, turkey, the brown meat of chicken, nuts, some beans and dairy products.

Hopefully further medical trials will go on to prove that zinc can help to ward off the common cold and alleviate the symptoms, and that we can then say that we are a bit further forward in finding a cure for the common cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment