The moment you're semi-sure you're getting a cold, get some zinc lozenges, and cut the length of coughing and sneezing days by 40 per cent. That's the result of a meta-analysis of 15 different scientific studies.
Zinc lozenges have long been considered a potential salve for colds, but the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews recently pulled out 15 studies with respectable methods and found that, most often, zinc seemed to help those with a cold. So much so, in fact, that coughing could be cut from five days to two, and the total duration of a cold from seven to four days.
The most important tips? Take the zinc as soon as humanly possible after the cold starts, and take enough of it to matter. Many studies in the database analysis had patients take lozenges from ColdCure.com, run by George Eby, a researcher and early advocate of zinc's effectiveness. Taking 13 milligrams every three to four hours during the day, for a total of 50-65 milligrams per day, is what seemed to cut down colds.
Why zinc? Researchers guess at the antiviral properties of zinc, but can't be sure; much more on zinc's pros, cons, and safety advisories can be found at the well-stocked Wikipedia page. And, please, don't use direct nasal applications, as they have some seriously nasty side effects. In general, if you're trying zinc and you think you're reacting badly, stop taking it, as all colds eventually go away, and aren't worth the experiment.
For Cold Virus, Zinc May Edge Out Even Chicken Soup [NYTimes.com]