While there is still no cure for the common cold, there is one way to make sure the symptoms are over as quickly as possible. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers concluded that zinc supplements taken at the first signs of a cold could reduce the duration of symptoms by as much as half.
It may start with a sneeze, a runny nose, or a cough. Regardless of how it begins, you know you're in for at least a week or two of unpleasant symptoms.
But zinc supplements, taken orally within 24 hours of the first cold symptoms, could reduce the duration of the illness.
This is the conclusion reached by pediatricians Rashmi Rajan Das, of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhubaneswar, and Meenu Singh, of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, upon analyzing data from 18 randomized controlled trials. The researchers warn, however, that "given the high heterogeneity of data, these results should be interpreted with caution" and that "the prevalence of adverse effects with zinc lozenges is high." According to the pediatricians, zinc was observed to be effective in limiting the duration of a cold at doses of above 75mg per day.
The study also revealed that the preventative use of zinc over a period of five months reduced the incidence of colds in children. However, the side effects associated with excessive zinc intake limit the attractiveness of prescribing the supplement to children over an extended period.
The study's focus on preventing colds in children is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the average adult experiences between two and four colds per year, compared to between eight and ten for the average child.
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