Sucking away the common cold

The first tickles of cool zephyrs are making their amid the early autumn air in the southern hemisphere. With those tickles come the promise of a cold and flu season that may be a few months off but the wise will be arming themselves against those sniffly months. According to the Australian Department of health in 2014 there was a sharp increase in flu in mid-July, a peak in mid-August and then a rapid decline to “interseasonal” levels by early October. In all the flu season of 2014 lasted 12 weeks. Although you can catch the common cold year round the colder winter months are also the times when colds strike since the viruses that cause colds also spread more easily in colder, drier air. Your nasal passages are drier during the winter (due to drier air), allowing cold viruses to take hold and make you sick more easily than they can during the spring and summer months. Zinc lozenges have a reputation for being a useful treatment for common colds but a new study wanted to see how far their benefit may go.

The common cold can be caused by around 100 viruses but the symptoms are much the same although they vary from person to person. Common cold symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, red eyes, and swelling of lymph glands. As you can see the mouth throat and nose are heavily involved. In the past studies have shown that zinc acetate lozenges when sucked will shorten the duration of a cold by around 42 per cent.

We know that when zinc lozenges are dissolved in the mouth then zinc ions are released into the saliva of the pharyngeal region, the mucous membranes immediately behind the mouth. These researchers however, wanted to see whether the effects of zinc lozenges on common cold symptoms were only to the local symptoms in the pharynx or did they extend to other cold symptoms.

To study this they analysed results from three previous studies where zinc acetate lozenges were used. The results showed that high dose zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34 per cent, nasal congestion by 37 per cent, sneezing by 22 per cent, sore throat by 18 per cent, scratchy throat by 33 per cent, hoarseness by 43 per cent, and cough by 46 per cent. On top of all that the duration of muscle ache was reduced by 54 per cent.

The evidence is certainly that the effects of zinc lozenges go well beyond the area in which they dissolve. So if you are wanting to arm yourself against the common cold this year you would do well to have some zinc acetate lozenges in your first aid cabinet.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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