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How much zinc should you take? continued...

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) of a supplement is the highest amount that most people can take safely. Never take more unless your health care provider says so. Keep in mind that this upper limit includes the zinc you get from foods and supplements.


(Children & Adults)

Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of Zinc

0-6 months

4 mg/day

7-12 months

5 mg/day

1-3 years

7 mg/day

4-8 years

12 mg/day

9-13 years

23 mg/day

14-18 years

34 mg/day

19 years and up

40 mg/day

To avoid irritating the stomach, take zinc with food. For the common cold, zinc lozenges are supposed to be started within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms. Then, take the zinc lozenges every two to three hours -- while you're awake, of course -- until the symptoms go away.

Can you get zinc naturally from foods?

Good food sources of zinc are:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Oysters
  • Fortified cereals
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and nuts

What are the risks of taking zinc?

  • Side effects. Zinc supplements can irritate the stomach and mouth. Zinc lozenges can alter your sense of smell and taste for a few days. If taken long-term, zinc lozenges may lower copper levels in the body. Zinc nasal sprays have been associated with a loss of smell, which may be permanent.
  • Interactions. Zinc may interact with some medicines such as birth control pills and some antibiotics. Zinc can also interact with other supplements, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron. If you take daily medicine or supplements, ask your health care provider about taking zinc.
  • Risks. People who are allergic to zinc, have HIV, or have hemochromatosis should not take zinc supplements without talking to their doctor first. Too much zinc can cause fever, cough, nausea, reduced immune function, mineral imbalances, cholesterol changes, and other issues. In pregnant women, high doses may harm the fetus.

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