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Zinc Lozenges Have No Benefit in Treating the Common Cold in Children


  • For children with common cold symptoms, does zinc have any benefits over placebo?

Clinical Bottom Lines

  1. Zinc gluconate lozenges are ineffective in relieving cold symptoms in children and adolescents.1
  2. The days until complete resolution of symptoms in both the zinc and placebo groups had no statistically significant difference.
  3. The measurement of all side effects was also not significantly different between the two groups.

Summary of Key Evidence

  1. In this randomized controlled trial, zinc lozenges with 10 mg zinc each were used.  Children in grades 1 - 6 took the lozenges 5 times/day, grades 7 - 12 took the lozenges 6 times/day.  Placebo lozenges were as close as possible in texture and taste.
  2. End points were measured as days until resolution of all symptoms, days until resolution of individual symptoms, and school absences.
  3. Median number of days until resolution of all symptoms: Zinc group = 9 days, Placebo group = 9 days, p = .71.
  4. School absences - Total number of days missed: Zinc group = 32, Placebo group = 53, P = .12.

Additional Comments

  • Side effects: Overall occurence of adverse effects did not reach statistical significance; however the individual symptoms of bad taste, nausea, irration, and diarrhea did reach significance.
  • Potential problems with this trial: dosage, adherence, students may not have been reliable; formulation, viruses may vary in susceptibility; no objective measures of cold severity.


  1. Macknin ML. Piedmonte M. Calendine C. Janosky J. Wald E. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold in children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 279(24):1962-7, 1998.

CAT Author: Cindy Wilhelmsen, MD

CAT Appraisers: John G. Frohna, MD

Date appraised: December 14, 1998

Last updated June 14, 2003
Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases
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