What is the treatment for zinc deficiency?
This partly depends on the cause. Ideally, the underlying cause should be addressed and then the deficiency will correct itself. Zinc supplements may be needed and this would depend on the level of deficiency and on the cause.
There may be a need for dietary advice, and supplementation of other essential elements.
What is the treatment for zinc excess?
The treatment for zinc excess, poisoning or toxicity mostly involves removing the source of zinc excess and then treating the symptoms until the zinc level settles back down.
Oxygen treatment is usually needed for people who have inhaled zinc fumes (metal fume fever). Medicines such as paracetamol are used for pains and fevers.
Who should have zinc supplements?
Most people who are healthy and eating normally do not need zinc supplements. People who have risk factors mentioned in the causes section may need to take zinc supplements. Those who might be advised by their healthcare professional to take zinc supplements include:
- Those with gut problems which cause problems absorbing zinc.
- Those in whom tests have confirmed zinc deficiency.
- People with Wilson's disease, a rare condition affecting copper levels in the body.
- Children with diarrhoea, in developing countries only, on the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Much research is underway looking at whether zinc supplements might reduce our chance of catching coughs and colds. Also, whether high-dose zinc supplements might make a cold better more quickly once you have one. There is some evidence that zinc might be helpful in these circumstances, but there are not enough results yet for specific advice to be given. There is also some evidence that zinc supplements may slow the rate of age-related macular degeneration once it has developed. Your eye specialist may be able to advise.
Note that zinc supplements can interfere with other medicines, and vice versa, so if you are taking them, discuss this with your pharmacist.
Further reading and references
Evans JR, Lawrenson JG; Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 1411:CD000254. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000254.pub3.
Singh M, Das RR; Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 186:CD001364. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4.
Lazzerini M, Wanzira H; Oral zinc for treating diarrhoea in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Dec 2012:CD005436. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005436.pub5.
Allan GM, Arroll B; Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ. 2014 Feb 18186(3):190-9. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.121442. Epub 2014 Jan 27.
Saper RB, Rash R; Zinc: an essential micronutrient. Am Fam Physician. 2009 May 179(9):768-72.
Zinc. Consumer Fact Sheet; National Institute of Health Office of dietary supplements
Acrodermatitis enteropathica; DermNet NZ
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