Got the Sniffles? Skip the Zinc and Vitamin C

Consumer Reports said taking zinc and vitamin C when you have a cold may actually make things worse. We’ll tell you why.

Got the Sniffles? Skip the Zinc and Vitamin C Photo (cc) by anna gutermuth

If you’re like many people, you quickly reach for vitamin C and zinc when you feel the symptoms of a cold set in. Unfortunately, the two aren’t the magical cold-killing supplements you might be hoping for.

According to Consumer Reports, vitamin C has little impact on a cold. Here are four reasons you might want to rethink popping vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on:

  • Too late. If you’re regularly taking vitamin C, your cold might be shorter by a day. But drinking vitamin C drinks and popping vitamins after your cold sets in won’t help cure your cold.
  • Kidney stones. A study cited by CR found that men who regularly take vitamin C are twice as likely to develop kidney stones. Yikes.
  • You’ll get rid of it. Whatever vitamin C your body doesn’t absorb will leave your body with your urine. So taking more than the daily recommendation offers no extra benefits.
  • Stomach issues. Ingesting more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea, CR said.

CR also recommends skipping zinc during cold season. Here’s why:

  • No symptom relief. CR said tests have shown that people who take zinc regularly a day or two before their cold begins may shorten their cold by a day. Unfortunately, “taking zinc had no effect whatsoever on the severity of the [cold] symptoms,” CR said.
  • Icky side effects. Zinc not only leaves a gross taste in your mouth, it can also cause nausea. The cold symptoms may be easier to tolerate than the side effects of taking zinc.
  • Toxic. Too much zinc can cause nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and other issues.
  • Medication interaction. Zinc reacts with several medications. Check with your doctor before taking it.
  • It can cause health issues. “Getting too much zinc may increase the risk for prostate cancer, lead to copper deficiency and neurological problems, and reduce levels of HDL (good) cholesterol,” CR said.
  • Smelling issues. CR said you should avoid using zinc in nasal preparations because it can cause you to lose your sense of smell, sometimes permanently.

In my experience, keeping hydrated and getting as much rest as possible helps beat a cold. But as a mother of two young children, getting adequate rest for myself on an average day, nevermind when I’m sick and really need it, is a laughably impossible feat.

How do you treat a cold? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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