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As of early 2011, further research was needed to determine just how well zinc cold remedies work. They certainly do not cure the common cold, because there is no such cure. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people might find relief from zinc cold remedies, and some studies have suggested that taking zinc might help fight a cold, but other studies have suggested that zinc has no measurable effects on the common cold.
When used as a cold medicine, zinc typically is an active ingredient in oral tablets, lozenges and syrups, as well as nasal sprays and gels. Medical research has yet to conclusively show whether zinc cold remedies ease cold symptoms or shorten a cold's duration. Some studies indicate that taking zinc at the onset of a cold might shorten or decrease a cold's effects. Other studies indicate that cold sufferers who do not take zinc fare the same as those who do. To resolve the contradictory findings, researchers have continued to test the effectiveness of zinc cold remedies, and one major focus of their work has been to test whether a certain amount of zinc taken at a certain time during a cold would be beneficial.
Doctors warn that at least one conclusive result has been determined about zinc cold remedies — zinc nasal sprays can cause adverse effects. Studies have shown that these sprays reduce the sense of smell in animals. Many people who use zinc nasal sprays also report a reduced sense of smell, and some have even lost this sense altogether.
More research on the effectiveness of zinc cold remedies is needed, so cold sufferers might turn to other natural cold remedies or alternative medicines. Doctors still consider the tried and true methods safe and beneficial: plenty rest and water, and perhaps saltwater gargles and saline nasal solutions. These remedies are safe for most and are not known to cause many, if any, adverse effects. Over-the-counter cold tablets and other medicines are also generally safe, though some individuals cannot take them due to other health issues or age.
Although zinc cold remedies have not yet shown overwhelming promise, zinc itself is not only useful, it also is essential. Zinc is a mineral that is necessary to sustain a healthy life, and it is found naturally or added to many foods, including some meats and cereals. It helps the body perform several processes that boost immunity, which is the ability to fend off disease and infection, such as a cold. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, zinc helps the body prevent sickness, making all cold remedies less necessary.