Getting a cold sucks— there’s no two ways about it. It causes your routine to take a hit because instead of going to work or the gym or anywhere else, the only place you want to be is curled up in bed. That’s why people will do whatever it takes to get rid of their cold as fast as possible. This includes trying natural options and medicated options alike.

One such option that’s more on the natural side is taking zinc supplements. Zinc is a micronutrient that’s incredibly important to have enough of in your body. It’s already known to enhance immune function; keep your blood sugar stable; and also keep your eyes, heart and skin relatively healthy. But many claim that it’s a great idea to treat a cold with. So, are zinc supplements a good cold remedy to try?

The biggest claim of using zinc to treat colds is that it cuts the length of it in half, and also prevents cold. But most doctors— including Dr. Tina Ardon, MD of Jacksonville, Florida’s Mayo Clinic— believe that zinc doesn’t treat a cold, or prevent it from happening. The evidence of it being able to shorten a cold is limited, to say the least.

As depressing as that may sound, you can still try to help stop your cold with zinc if you wish. Some studies have stressed that you must take zinc within 24 hours of noticing that you’re developing cold symptoms. Otherwise, taking zinc for a cold will be all for nothing. What’s also important is the kind of zinc you take. While the pill form may be easiest to consume, an oral syrup or lozenge has been found to be most effective. Stay away from zinc nasal sprays— there’s plenty of evidence that shows people suffering from permanent loss of smell when using them.

In terms of how much you can take, adult women can consume eight milligrams of zinc per day. However, make sure that you don’t exceed 40 milligrams a day. You can overdose on this nutrient, which can be toxic to the human body. That can damage your nervous system and can also cause anemia and/or copper deficiency. The side effects of taking too much zinc includes a bad taste in mouth, diminished smell, nausea and upset stomach. If you notice any of these symptoms, decrease your zinc intake and see if your body calms down. Call your doctor or medical professional if that proves unsuccessful.

Jamieson’s Zinc, Shopper’s Drug Mart

To prevent a zinc overdose, follow the instructions on the package so that you only take what you’re supposed to. Keep in mind that you’ll still consume some zinc in your food, as well as any other cold medicine you’re taking. After all, your cold medicine could very well contain a certain level of zinc, too.

Taking zinc for a cold is unlikely to cure a cold or prevent one from happening in the first place. If you insist on taking it, by all means do it. Just make sure that you don’t consume too much zinc, or else your health will suffer. All in all, doctors say that your best bet in tackling a cold is to drink lots of fluids, get lots of sleep and wait for your immune system to beat that cold.

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