Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Does Zinc Help With Immunity?

Q&A on colds

Emily Oster

2 min Read

What is the data on using zinc to help with immunity? I have been taking 50 milligrams every night for the past six months. My son, who is in day care, gets sick at least once a month and I usually end up with it. Since taking it, my colds are either non-existent or milder. Is this a true effect or am I imagining things?

—Sick of being sick

There is a moment for many parents of preschoolers when you feel like you would do almost anything to avoid another cold (or norovirus episode, or hand, foot, and mouth…). Before getting into the question of zinc, let me assure you that it gets better! Kids do get less sick as they get older, and you will too. Hang in there.

On zinc: you are not entirely imagining this, at least based on the data. Researchers have used randomized trials to evaluate zinc both for preventing and lowering the duration of colds

kid sitting on couch cleaning nose with tissue
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

For prevention, the impacts appear quite small. In a meta-analysis, there is a 10% reduction in colds, which is not quite significant. So it’s trending toward an effect, but not one that is statistically precise and, more importantly, probably not one that you’d feel much in your experience. The impacts on duration are stronger — zinc seems to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 2.25 days. These effects are similar in a second review of trials — an effect on duration, but less evidence for prevention.

If you feel like this is working, there is no reason to quit! If you asked about starting up, I’d say the data could support taking zinc supplements at or above your current level (the Cochrane review says 75 milligrams a day or more) when you have a cold, to lower the duration. But I’d be less compelled about the value of supplementing in general. 

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CEM
CEM
19 days ago

how much zinc should you give a child preventatively during cold season vs. when they actually have a cold? For a 6 year old and 3 year old? thank you!

HJBBW
HJBBW
21 days ago

I’m a bit confused about whether the evidence supports taking zinc all the time to decrease duration of sickness, or if the evidence supports just taking zinc when you get sick.

Is the evidence supporting zinc for duration of colds only for people who take it daily? Or is it just as effective to take it only once you start experiencing symptoms?

JM
JM
21 days ago
Reply to  HJBBW
21 days ago

Seconded. Would love to know all of this. I’m on my second illness this week thanks to daycare/preschool and am willing to try anything safe and for which the data supports even a possibility of prevention.

kristaloconnell@gmail.com
kristaloconnell@gmail.com
18 days ago
Reply to  HJBBW
18 days ago

The meta analysis looked at zinc used to treat sickness, not as a supplement. To be eligible for inclusion, studied “compared oral zinc treatment started within three days of symptoms with placebo or no intervention. We excluded studies in which zinc was administered intranasally or that used zinc in a combined formulation with other minerals or vitamins. “

KBB
KBB
21 days ago

How safe is zinc during pregnancy? I’m 17 weeks and getting over such a horrible summer cold. I would have normally taken zinc (Zicam gummies) but struggled to find info about safety during pregnancy, so bare knuckled it.

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It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”

Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic.

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
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I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

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Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash S e x Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
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Prevention is key! I suggest:
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⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...