Nutrient Cures

Does Zicam Work if You Already Have a Cold?

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Does Zicam Work if You Already Have a Cold?

When you are super sick with a cold and miserable you would do just about anything to feel better. You might see an ad for Zicam and wonder, “does Zicam work if I already have a cold?”, or “does Zicam work at all?”. Yes, Zicam works when you have a cold but it depends how long you have been sick. No, Zicam does not work if you are already really, really sick. The key is to start using it when you just start feeling sick. You have to take it when you have the first sign of a cold such as a runny nose, sneezing or sore throat. If you take it early in a cold it can work wonders. If you have already been sick for days it might not do you any good.

Why Does it Matter When I Take Zicam?

It might seem strange that something for a cold would depend on when you take it. It seems like it should either work or not work. To understand why the timing matters it helps to understand how Zicam works. It all has to do with the location of the cold viruses in your body and how Zicam can reach those viruses to stop them from spreading.

How Does Zicam Work? It Stops Viruses From Spreading.

Zicam works by coming in contact with cold viruses in your nose and throat. That is why Zicam comes in oral sprays that you spray in your mouth and on your throat and it also comes in lozenges and chews. Zicam does not work from your stomach it works by coming in direct contact with cold viruses (technically called “rhinovirus”) which are in your respiratory system in the early stages of a cold. Zicam is made from zinc which is a naturally occurring mineral that happens to be an anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. When viruses are exposed to zinc they are not able to replicate (viruses replicate whereas bacteria reproduce). Anyway, with zinc the viruses are stopped in their tracks and can no longer produce more viruses which would then spread throughout your system and make you really sick. That is the beauty of Zicam! It is basic science at work and it really works. The zinc stops the spread of the viruses and it is also an anti-inflammatory and a natural anti-histamine. It reduces swelling, makes you less prone to sneezing and runny nose due to the anti-histamine affect. If you wait until you are really sick, the viruses have already spread so Zicam can’t reach them all to stop them. Early in a cold, viruses sit in your throat and replicate. This is why colds are picked up through contact with sick people when the viruses are spread through sneezing or touching someone or something they touched and then touching our nose, eyes or mouth. The upper respiratory system is where we come into contact with viruses in the first place, so that is where we need to fight them before they spread.

When Can You Take Zicam?

Take one dose of Zicam when you first suspect you might have a cold. Zicam is just zinc in a convenient and efficient form. It won’t hurt you at all to take Zicam even if you are not sick. Zinc is very good for us and useful for many body functions such as fighting inflammation and working as a natural anti-histamine.

Take another dose of Zicam every 3 or 4 hours while you still feel sick and for a day after your symptoms go away. If you stop taking it as soon as you feel better (for me that is after just one or two lozenges), you might stop too soon before the viruses are eradicated. If you stop too soon, the viruses may resurface and make you sick. Then you may think Zicam didn’t work but that is just because you didn’t take it properly and give it a chance to work. Just like you need to take a full course of antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection and not stop too soon, you need to take enough Zicam to fight a viral infection.

How To Use Zicam

Make sure you follow these when you take Zicam.

  • Take it as soon as you feel a cold starting. It is best to take it within 24 hours at the latest.
  • Don’t have any citrus fruit or juice 30 minutes before or after taking Zicam
  • Don’t eat or drink for 15 minutes after taking Zicam.
  • Eat something before you take it to eliminate any chance of an upset stomach.
  • Don’t chew the lozenges or rapid melts, they need time to be absorbed.

What Are Side Effects of Zicam?

Zicam only has one real side effect in my experience and that is the potential to upset your stomach if you don’t take it correctly. Make sure to have food on your stomach. Eat before you take Zicam. This is important because you are not supposed to eat or drink anything right after you take it! You don’t want to wash it away. As long as I have food on my stomach I am fine taking Zicam.

Zicam has a somewhat strong taste which some people don’t mind and some dislike. I have found the orange cream flavor rapid melts and the new gummies taste better than the older flavors.

Zicam can reduce the effectiveness of certain antibiotics and other medications. Ask your doctor.

Can Kids Take Zicam?

Yes, kids can take Zicam. There are kid’s versions of Zicam which you can read about in my review here. Can Kids Take Zicam? Older kids over 12 can take normal Zicam for adults.

More Benefits of Zicam

Zicam is made from zinc which is a natural anti-inflammatory. I accidentally discovered this when I was taking Zicam to fight colds and noticed my joints felt much better. I have chronic bursitis and whenever I took Zicam it was almost gone. That is how I learned about zinc as an anti-inflammatory! If you take Zicam you just might feel better if you have tendinitis, rheumatoid arthritis or bursitis or other inflammatory conditions. Of course I am not a doctor and I am not suggesting zinc or Zicam are a cure for these conditions. This is based on my personal experience.

Zinc is also an anti-histamine so it helps with allergies and other histamine reactions in the body.

Kinds of Zicam

Zicam comes in many forms including rapid melt lozenges, sprays, gummies, chews, kid’s versions and more. Here are is the newest addition, mixed fruit flavored gummies.

Please Leave a Comment or Question Below

I would love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts or questions in a comment.

Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. These recommendations are based on personal experience and research. Consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options. 



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  1. Jim

    Hi Jessica. When I first started reading your article I thought to myself, this isn’t for me because I never get a cold. But I kept reading because i found it interesting and easy to read. Eventually I came across the part where you talked about kids using it. My grandchildren are always suffering from colds and flu’s, this product sounds like it might be ideal for them. We have been unable to figure out why they’re always sick but it might just be a zinc shortage. I will be telling my daughter about it and i might even purchase a bottle from your link. Then I came across another interesting part where you mentioned allergies. Well, over the last few years I’ve been suffering more and more from these. Grass sets me off, as does dust and even cold mornings. So it looks like I will have to get an adults dose from you as well. I had no idea that my symptoms could be aggravated by a zinc shortage. Thank you for this valuable information. Jim,

    1. admin

      Hello Jim,

      I have been using Zicam for years with great success. I discovered the anti-inflammatory properties of zinc a few years ago and just this year I learned that it is also an anti-histamine! I am still taking a regular anti-histamine but I have a serious issue and was almost incapacitated by allergies this spring. The zinc really helps and I hope that in the winter I might be able to use the natural anti-histamines and drop the medication. 

      If you want to read more about natural anti-histamines including zinc, check out my post on that topic. What Supplements Lower Histamine?  

      It is pretty normal for kids to be sick all the time. Around here it seems everyone with kids or grandkids nearby is getting sick from the bugs their kids bring home from school. 

      I hope Zicam works well for your grandkids!



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