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Is Zicam Hazardous to Your Health?

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Many homeopathic products like Zicam are not undergoing the rigorous review required by conventional therapies to gain FDA approval. Pediatric ENT, Dr. Nina Shapiro, gives us the bottom line.
zicam cold remedy swabs

Dr. Nina Shapiro: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that Zicam cold remedy nasal gel, and other related products, should not be used, as they can be associated with permanent damage to the nerves associated with smell.

Loss of smell, or "anosmia," can be both debilitating and dangerous. We rely on our sense of smell for recognition and enjoyment of foods, pleasant smells, and even memory. Blunting this important sense can lead to loss of interest in food, and even social isolation. The smell sense is also protective, as it helps us detect dangers such as smoke from a fire or burning substance, gas leaks, or even spoiled food.

The active ingredient, zincum gluconicum, has been pointed to as the source. Zinc has often been considered a homeopathic cold remedy, and is found in many "alternative" treatments such as zinc lozenges. However, when used directly in the nose, it may actually injure the delicate olfactory epithelium (the lining of the nose responsible for smell). Several peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated either no effect or deleterious effects from using zinc directly on nasal tissues. Zinc is a heavy metal, and has not been proven to be safe or effective in reducing cold symptoms.

Because products such as Zicam contain such substances as herbs, minerals, and flowers, they are considered homeopathic, and are not required to undergo review by the FDA before being marketed. However, "homeopathic," "natural," and "alternative" are not necessarily equivalent to "safe," "effective," or "inert," especially for children. Many "natural" remedies may actually do a good deal of harm. Worse, they have unknown risks because they have not been tested appropriately and judiciously on patients. Consumers have fallen into the trap of believing that "natural" is better. On the contrary, many homeopathic products (such as Zicam) are not undergoing the rigorous review required by conventional therapies to gain FDA approval.


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53 comments so far | Post a comment now
suburban mom June 19, 2009, 7:23 PM

Thanks for this very informative article.
There are so few opportunities to get the real scope on these products.

Anonymous June 20, 2009, 12:19 AM

My mom used Zicam and has lost her sense of smell and taste. She has gotten back most of the taste and alittle of the smell…but she still cannot smell that well. I tried to get her to go in on the class action suit. I would NEVER use Zicam after this happened to her.

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