Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
What is the best way to take zinc for colds? I have heard lozenges work well, but that supplemental pills work just as well.
A: The most commonly recommended way for Zinc to be used for colds is sucking on high doses of zinc lozenges at the onset of cold symptoms. This method may work by directly killing viruses in the throat rather than improving the nutritional status of the body.
A recent study concluded that proper use of zinc lozenges can cause many cold symptoms to go away faster than they would otherwise. Participants took the lozenges several times daily until their cold symptoms subsided. The results were impressive. Coughing disappeared within 2.2 days. Sore throat disappeared after 1 day, nasal drainage in 4 days, and headache in 2 days.
Keep in mind that flavoring agents, such as citric acid and tartaric acid, appear to prevent zinc from killing viruses, and chemical forms of zinc other than zinc gluconate or zinc acetate may not work.