Zicam Cold Remedy

In This Article

FDA Announces Use Of Zicam Nasal Spray Can Lead To Loss Of Smell
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Zicam Cold Remedy is a homeopathic medication that claims to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold.

In June 2009, the FDA warned consumers not to use Zicam Cold Remedy nasal spray or gel swabs because of the possibility that they may cause people to lose their sense of smell. The manufacturer recalled the products after the warning was issued.

How to Use It

Zicam Cold Remedy can be given as a nasal spray or a nasal swab.

Gel: Pump once into each nostril, then press lightly on the outside of each nostril with your finger for 5 seconds. Do not sniff the product.

Nasal swabs: Follow the package directions to open the swab, then rub the swab inside one nostril. Dip the swab into the tube again to reapply the medication and repeat in the other nostril. Press lightly on the outside of each nostril with your finger for about 5 seconds.

Both formulations should be used every 4 hours until symptoms are gone.

Also available in RapidMelt, chewable and oral mist form.

Active Ingredients

The active ingredient in Zicam cold remedy is zincum gluconicum.

How It Works

The theory behind the original Zicam Cold Remedy (the nasal spray) was that zinc placed in the nasal cavity would block or kill the rhinovirus (common cold) at the point where it enters the human body.

Using Zicam in Children

Zicam is labeled for use in children over 3 years of age. However, you should consult your child's healthcare provider before giving any cough or cold products to a child, especially under age 6.

Using Zicam While Pregnant

You should speak with your healthcare provider before taking Zicam Cold Remedy (or any other medication) if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


The suggested retail price for Zicam Cold Remedy nasal gel and gel swabs is about $12, but the actual cost may vary by retailer.

Research Supporting Zicam

Zicam lists two major studies that support its claims. Both were double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, which means that some participants received Zicam and the rest received a product that did not include any zinc. Neither the participants nor the people administering the medications knew which one they were receiving at the time.

Potential Flaws in the Studies

The biggest limitation to these studies is the size of the testing groups. In the first study, just over 200 people were included. In the second, less than 100 took part. This is significant because the smaller the study, the more difficult it is to reproduce the same results in a larger population or to identify side effects.

Bottom Line

There have been numerous studies on zinc and the common cold. The results have been inconclusive at best. Zicam Cold Remedy is marketed as a homeopathic product and is not regulated by the FDA, so claims that it shortens the duration and severity of the common cold are not supported by any government agency.

In 2006, a class action lawsuit was settled out of court against the makers of Zicam (and Cold-Eeze) which claimed that the product caused people to lose their sense of smell. The company admitted no wrongdoing. There are multiple websites and emails circulating about this. 

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
  • ”Frequently Asked Questions.” Zicam website 2009. Zicam LLC. 
  • Hirt MD, Michael; Nobel MD, Sion; Barron BS, Ernesto. "Zinc Nasal Gel for the Treatment of Common Cold Symptoms: A Doubleblind, Placebo-Controlled Trial." ENT Journal Vol. 79, No. 10 Oct 2000. 
  • Mossad, S.B. "Effect of Zincum Gluconicum Nasal Gel on the Duration and Symptom Severity of the Common Cold in Otherwise Healthy Adults." Q J Med 2003; 96:35-43.