I posted something about supplements on Facebook recently and somebody commented about a terrible experience they had with a supplement called Zicam, which is a popular over the counter cold remedy containing zinc. In her comment, she said after she using Zicam, she lost her sense of smell. She said it's unlikely she would ever get her sense of smell back again. I am familiar with this unfortunate side effect. Let's look at the evidence for zinc and the loss of smell.
Zinc Swabs In Your Nose?
I have been saying this because of reports that have arisen over the last 10 years alleging these products may lead to a loss in the sense of smell. In some instances, the loss of smell may be permanent.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirms this in their June 16th 2009 Warning Letter to the makers of Zicam where they state they have received 130 complaints from people whose smell sense was either reduced or permanently lost. Some of these reports occurred after a single application. On the same day the FDA issued a public Safety Alert about Zicam.
As reported in the Washington Post article about Zicam, In 2006, the maker of Zicam (Matrixx Initatives) agreed to pay 12 million dollars to settle 340 lawsuits stemming from people who had lost their sense of smell. In some instance, just one application of Zicam caused a loss of smell.
Can Zinc Reduce Colds/Flus?
The problem is that this is faulty reasoning because “works faster” does not always mean the same thing as “works better”.
The peer reviewed published clinical studies find that sucking on zinc throat lozenges might help reduce cold symptoms (by about 10% to 30%).
My litmus test for all supplements is “published peer reviewed research”. To their credit, Cold-EEZE® is the ONLY PRODUCT on the market that has this proof. As such, it’s the zinc-based product I would recommend to people as long as they don't take the lozenges all the time.
Millicent Veal says
Thank you for your fact based review of Zicam. As a senior citizen there is a great need to be aware of interactions since age affects body function.
Hi Millicent, you are welcome.
S M says
What is your opinion on Airborne?
SM, my gut instinct on Airborne is I’m skeptical. I know they have had some issues in the past. Here is an article that discusses that
M C says
“It’s easy to get more than the RDA for zinc and this is where problems can occur.”
The RDA for zinc for most adults is 8-11 mg and the UL is 40 mg for same. Do you think it’s dangerous to get up to the UL, or any amount over the RDA?
MC you are right about it being easy to get more than the RDA for zinc. The UL – upper tolerable limit – is the amount, beyond which side effects might start to happen. As I understand this, being less than the UL should be ok. Zinc does a lot of good things but too much can interfere with absorption of other minerals. it might also lower HDL levels.
Brian Melnick says
I love Zicam and have used it many times over the years and my smell is fine. Although I never applied it up my nose, and from my knowledge I never see Zicam that is made to go up your nose, so I assume they discontinued that after the lawsuit and I would say that normal Zicam lozenges are safe and do help.
Brian, yes the original zicam was swabs that were placed in the nose. I believe they have replaced it with lozenges now.
I agree…Zicam and cold eze lozenges have literally saved me from getting problematic chest colds. I start using as soon as I get a head cold…The virus never gets past my throat area. I can’t say enough good things about the product. I’ve never used the nasal product, only the lozenges.
Reinforces my practice of avoiding anything Rush Limbaugh might endorse. Appreciate this review.
i appreciate you writing about this. you are helping many by providing this information. thank you so much.
Julia, thanks for saying that. I’m grateful that I was able to help.