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Time to stock up on zinc for prevention and treatment of flu

Colds and influenza, two well-known upper respiratory illnesses, will be on the rise in the near future. We had unusually low flu rates last year. Many analysts believe we will not be as fortunate this year.

Think zinc.

According to a new evaluation of the current research, over-the-counter zinc tablets may be one method to make cold and flu season a little easier. Of course, this isn't the first study to look into zinc as a COVID-19 antiviral treatment. However, the outcomes of the previous studies have been mixed at best: some studies show a slight benefit, while others show no benefit, and the research quality has been low. Zinc can also cause unpleasant side effects, such as stomach trouble, nausea, and, in some cases, a loss of sense of smell.

What did the research reveal?

According to the study, zinc can be used to prevent or treat colds and flu-like diseases. It was published in BMJ Open in November 2021. The researchers looked at over 1,300 prior studies before narrowing it down to 28 well-designed trials with over 5,000 study participants. What they discovered was as follows:

Cold and flu-like disease prevention:

Zinc pills or nasal spray zinc are linked to fewer upper respiratory infections when compared to placebo. The estimated effect was modest: for every 20 people who used zinc, about one illness was averted. The evidence supporting these conclusions is considered weak.

According to a few studies, the greatest preventive effects were seen in the reduction of severe symptoms including fever and flu-like illness. It's worth mentioning that the research didn't confirm whether or not the subjects were infected with the flu virus.

Zinc did not prevent colds in small investigations of people who were deliberately exposed to the virus.

Colds and flu-like illnesses can be treated using the following remedies:

When compared to placebo, those who took zinc saw a two-day delay in the onset of symptoms. According to the study, if 100 persons with upper respiratory infections were given zinc, an additional 19 would have recovered entirely by day seven. The evidence supporting these conclusions is considered weak.

Some indicators of symptom severity were lower in the zinc group (compared to the placebo group): those receiving zinc reported milder symptoms on day three of the infection. Furthermore, those who took zinc had an 87 percent lower incidence of severe symptoms. However, the daily average symptom severity was comparable between the zinc and placebo groups. These findings were poor to moderate data quality and certainty.

Before stocking up on zinc, what else should you keep in mind?

While these data show that zinc may have the potential to prevent or reduce cold and flulike illness, there are a few more points to consider:


Side effects, such as nausea and mouth or nose discomfort, were more frequent in those receiving zinc (vs placebo). Fortunately, none of the incidents were serious. However, for some people, these may be enough to make them discontinue taking zinc.


Zinc supplements are commonly available at a low cost. A month's worth of zinc lozenges might cost as little as $2 (though I've seen some kinds for as much as $75 on the internet).

Deficiency in zinc.

It was determined that none of the subjects in the study had low zinc levels or that they were unlikely to be zinc deficient. Between taking zinc to prevent or treat respiratory infections versus taking zinc because your body doesn't have enough zinc, there is a significant difference. People with poor nutrition or digestive problems that interfere with mineral absorption are more prone to have zinc deficiency, which necessitates supplementation to avoid major repercussions such as decreased immune function and poor wound healing.

Different doses or varieties are available. To establish the optimum manner to absorb zinc, more research is needed.


Due to the fact that none of the research included in this evaluation examined the effect of zinc supplementation on SARS-CoV-2, these findings do not apply to COVID-19.

You're familiar with the procedure.

Maybe this new research will persuade you to take zinc this winter. Or maybe you're still a skeptic. In any case, don't forget about tried-and-true cold and flu prevention techniques and treatments, such as these:

Obtain a flu shot.
Handwashing should be done often.
When near sick people, avoid contact, keep a safe distance, and wear a mask.
Get lots of rest.
Consciously strive to consume a balanced diet.

If you do become ill, follow these steps:

If at all possible, stay at home.
If you can't prevent contact with people, wear a mask.
Drink a lot of water.
Reduce symptoms using over-the-counter cold and flu medicines.
If you have flu symptoms, see your doctor right away; early treatment can reduce the length of your illness. Other conditions, particularly COVID-19, should also be ruled out.
Many of the cold and flu prevention and treatment recommendations overlap with those for COVID-19 prevention and treatment.


Every winter, millions of people suffer from colds and flu-like symptoms. You might believe it's unavoidable that you'll be one of them. However, you may be able to avoid the pain by taking some simple, safe, and common-sense precautions. Perhaps zinc should be included in these measures as evidence develops in its favor.

Zinc for treatment of flu


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