Zinc nasal gels can kill sense of smell

Most people would do almost anything to get relief from a nose clogged by a cold. A small study by doctors at the University of California-San Diego, however, suggests avoiding nasal gels containing zinc — at least if you value your sense of smell.

The doctors studied 25 patients who came to their clinic with “acute-onset anosmia,” meaning they had suddenly lost their sense of smell. Using the so-called Bradford Hill criteria — nine tests to establish causality — they found that zinc gels used inside the nose led to a diminished or complete loss of smell.


While the over-the-counter gels are commonly used to prevent and treat colds, multiple scientific trials “have found that intranasal zinc is ineffective in preventing or reducing the duration of the common cold,” the researchers wrote in the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against three products — Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size — after the products were all associated with long-lasting or permanent losses of smell. The FDA said consumers should stop using the products after receiving 130 reports of consumers who lost their sense of smell.

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