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The Informed Parent

The Use Of Zinc In Children And Adolescents

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Dec. 27, 2004

Many parents have asked me whether zinc lozenges are helpful for their children. Zinc lozenges have been proposed as a treatment for colds caused by the rhinovirus. They are used for reducing the acute symptoms as well as preventing colds.

In recent years there have been many clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of zinc in children and adults. About half of the studies reported benefits. Discrepancies in the results may be due to differences in the cold virus, the timing of the zinc lozenges, and different zinc formulations, et cetera. Overall, however, there appears to be a significant decrease in the duration of cold symptoms when young adults take zinc gluconate or acetate lozenges, providing 9-to-24 milligrams of elemental zinc per dose. The lozenges should be taken every two hours while awake. The mechanism of action of the zinc lozenge is not known. It is thought that the zinc works by interfering with the replication or attachment of the rhinovirus. Or it may block some step in the virus’s activation of inflammatory processes in the host.

Side effects from zinc lozenges include bad taste, mouth irritation, upset stomach and nausea. None of the side effects or adverse reactions is serious. Zinc lozenges can be safely used to stave off an upcoming cold or to lessen cold symptoms.

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