The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis

  • Harri Hemilä, Elizabeth Chalker
  • BMC Family Practice, February 2015, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1186/s12875-015-0237-6

Zinc acetate lozenges may shorten common cold-associated nasal discharge by 34% and cough by 46%

What is it about?

Zinc lozenges are slowly dissolved in the pharyngeal region. Thus, there might be some difference in the effect of zinc lozenges on the duration of respiratory symptoms in the pharyngeal region compared with the nasal region. This paper analyzed 3 trials on zinc acetate lozenges for the common cold. All 3 trials reported the effect of zinc on seven respiratory symptoms, and three systemic symptoms.

Why is it important?

Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34%, nasal congestion by 37%, sneezing by 22%, scratchy throat by 33%, sore throat by 18%, hoarseness by 43%, and cough by 46%. Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of muscle ache by 54%, but there was no difference in the duration of headache and fever. There is no indication that the effect of zinc lozenges on nasal symptoms is less than the effect on the symptoms of the pharyngeal region, which is more exposed to released zinc ions.


Dr Harri Hemila
Helsingin Yliopisto

Given that there were only few and minor adverse effects in the 3 trials, zinc acetate lozenges may be a useful treatment option for the common cold. Since 2 of the included studies started zinc treatment within 24 hours of the onset of the common cold, the strongest evidence of benefit is for such rapid initiation of zinc administration. More research is needed to find optimal lozenge compositions and treatment strategies.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Harri Hemila