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Beat the Common Cold with Vitamin C + Zinc

Common cold: What it is

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract).1 It can result from any one of more than 200 different viruses. The rhinovirus is the most common virus that causes a cold.2

Common cold symptoms caused by the rhinovirus are:2

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • cough
  • breathing difficulty
  • runny nose
  • breathing with mouth open due to blocked nose

Common cold vs influenza statistics in Malaysia and Singapore

Most Malaysians often mistake the flu for the common cold, however according to studies, influenza is still a significant contributor to hospitalisation among the elderly.3 Malaysia’s influenza rates are almost comparable with worldwide rates, with estimates ranging from 7-12% of the study population.4 There are no official statistics for the common cold in Malaysia. However, worldwide studies show that healthy adults can get the common cold 4-6 times annually, while children see a frequency of 6-8 times annually.5

In Singapore there are two main influenza seasons - December to February, and from May to July. In Singapore, influenza-associated hospitalisation has been estimated to be 29.6 per 100,000 persons each year, or about 1,500 hospitalisations per year.6

Certain groups of people may be more vulnerable to the common cold due to lower immunity:7

  • smokers
  • those with lowered immune function
  • those with respiratory illnesses
  • the elderly
  • pregnant women

There is no ‘cure’ for the common cold.8 However, there are some ways to lessen its symptoms, such as getting plenty of rest, keeping to good hygiene and hydrating yourself. Taking vitamin C and zinc supplements is also a good way to build better immunity.9

The role of vitamin C and zinc for immunity

Nutrients play key roles in maintaining healthy cell function and boost immunity. Among these nutrients, zinc and vitamin C stand out for having immune boosting and modulating functions and for playing a role in building and protecting cells.10

Vitamin C and zinc have many health benefits, including aiding immunity and building resistance to viruses.11 Vitamin C and vitamin c supplements helps the absorption of plant-based iron, while zinc is required for the body to produce DNA and for cell division.11

Aside from this, vitamin C and zinc also:

Have complementary roles in supporting components of innate and adaptive immunity

Both nutrients work hand in hand to boost and protect all the immune building and white blood cells in the body.12 When a person contracts a virus, these cells - work in tandem to fight off the virus.12

Are essential to a child's health and development, as well as optimal immune response.

Both nutrients help repair and protect your child's body cells.13 This helps to guard off infections and aids their blood cells to grow and develop.13

Protection against common colds

Vitamin C and zinc also play a role in building immunity and resistance to the common cold.14 While it does not appear to prevent colds in most people, studies have concluded that both vitamin C and zinc may reduce the length and severity of a cold.15 Taking 250 milligrams of vitamin C daily reduces the chance of catching a cold by 50 percent.16

Effects of vitamin C against common cold

Though it may not be the cure for the common cold, vitamin C is a safe and effective nutrient.17 Vitamin C may protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, amongst others.17 Vitamin C protects your cells from being damaged by viruses, and free radicals produced by cigarette smoke, air pollution, excessive sunlight and normal metabolism.17

How vitamin C helps speed up recovery from a common cold

Vitamin C accumulates in your body’s cells and stays there.18 It enhances cell movement that subsequently decreases the generation of foreign substances and viruses. This eventually starves the foreign cells and kills them.18 Studies have shown that vitamin C supplement helps speed up recovery by 8% - meaning you’ll feel better 13 hours sooner during a typical seven-day illness.19

Effects of zinc against the common cold

Zinc is a trace element that the T-cells and other cells of our immune system rely on to function.20 Research shows that zinc is a gatekeeper for healthy immune function and a popular treatment option for the common cold.20

Zinc inhibits replication of rhinovirus

Most colds are caused by a type of virus called rhinovirus, which thrives and multiplies in the nasal passages and throat (upper respiratory system).20 Zinc may work by preventing the rhinovirus from multiplying. It may also stop the virus from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.20

Apart from this, zinc may also help:20

  • inhibit the growth and reproduction of germs and viruses
  • alleviate the possible inflammation reactions caused by a cold
  • prevents the release of histamine, allowing the person to breathe easier.

Combined effect of vitamin C and zinc supplement against the common cold

Based on studies, high doses of vitamin C are said to be effective in improving and speeding up the recovery from the common cold.21 Endogenous vitamin C concentration falls rapidly with the onset of infection and tends to return to normal with the disappearance of symptoms, suggesting that its administration may be beneficial for the recovery process.21

On the other hand, zinc salts have been found to inhibit rhinovirus replication and may protect plasma membranes against lysis (cell rupture) by microbial toxins.21 Zinc administered either as lozenges or syrup within 24 hours of symptom onset was found to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy people.21

A randomised, double-blind trial study was conducted among males and females (> 18 years) with early symptoms of common cold.22 The study participants received either 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 10 mg of zinc or placebo daily for up to 10 days, and revealed that supplementation with 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 10 mg of zinc was significantly more effective than the placebo.22

Some of the observations made through this study include:

  • Reduced runny nose (rhinorrhoea / nasal mucus fluid) over 5 days of treatment.
  • Quicker recovery of the common cold. 2x faster recovery from common cold.
  • Relieving other symptoms such as nasal obstruction, sneezing and eye watering.
  • Symptom relief was observed to be quicker and well-tolerated.21

Apart from augmenting your diet with good supplements, eating well and exercising are also ways to support immune health and help your body be in its best form to do battle when necessary.


  1. Mayo Clinic. The common cold.
  2. John Hopkins. Common Cold.
  3. National Library of Medicine. Influenza in adult patients in Malaysia
  4. BMC Infectious Diseases. Influenza in Malaysian adult patients hospitalised with community-acquired pneumonia, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma: a multicenter, active surveillance study.
  5. National Library of Medicine. Common cold.
  6. National Library of Medicine. Influenza Pandemics in Singapore, a Tropical, Globally Connected City. doi: 10.3201/eid1307.061313
  7. Healthline. Common cold risk factors.
  8. MayoClinic. Common Cold's%20no%20cure%20for%20the,yourself%20while%20your%20body%20heals.
  9. Frontiers. Zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C: Perspectives for COVID-19 With a Focus on Physical Tissue Barrier Integrity.
  10. National Institute of Health. Vitamin C.,reduced%20cold%20incidence%20by%2050%25.
  11. SFgate. What are the benefits of Vitamin C and Zinc.
  12. National Library of Medicine. Vitamin C and Immune function
  13. Baby Club UK. Why do they need Vitamin C.,blood%20cells%2C%20grow%20and%20develop
  14. National Library of Medicine. Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions,infections%20including%20the%20common%20cold.
  15. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 5 Tips: Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say?
  16. National Institute of Health. Vitamin C.,reduced%20cold%20incidence%20by%2050%25.
  17. National Library of Medicine. Vitamin C for preventing and treating common cold.
  18. National Library of Medicine. Vitamin C and Immune Function.
  19. Cleveland Clinic. Will Vitamin C or Zinc Help Me Get Over My Cold Faster?,demonstrate%20no%20benefit%20at%20all.
  20. Mayo Clinic. Zinc for colds. The final word,in%20contact%20with%20the%20rhinovirus.
  21. The Journal of International Medical Research. A Combination of High-dose Vitamin C Plus Zinc for the Common Cold. S Maggini 1, S Beveridge 1 AND M Suter 2,a 2012; 40: 28.
  22. Journals of International Medical Research. Essential Role of Vitamin C and Zinc in Child Immunity and Health.