Pros: If taken as directed, it is incredibly effective
Cons: It unfortunately MUST be taken EXACTLY as the package directs to be effective
I am prone to getting two or three truly awful colds each year that last at least two weeks and usually cause me to get bronchitis, sinusitis, and even pneumonia. It has been my experience that IF and ONLY IF I begin taking Zicam at "the earliest onset of symptoms" does the Zicam work.
On the other hand, if I start taking them as soon as I develop the stinging, irritated feeling in my nose and throat, my colds only last about three or four days and are dramatically less severe. I started using Zicam about seven years ago on a regular basis, and in that time have only had three bad colds, instead of the 15-20 that I would normally have experienced. This is in spite of the fact that I was living in the Palm Springs area, which is a tourist destination for travelers the world over, bringing all sorts of novel and mutated viruses in every day that regional residents have no protection against.
If for some reason I do not begin taking the Zicam until the cold is established (e.g., a sore throat for several hours, runny nose, etc.), taking the Zicam has little effect, though it may possibly reduce the duration slightly. This happened twice when the cold began during the night while I was traveling and didn't have any Zicam on hand and once when I mistakenly assumed that the irritated feeling in my nose was from allergies.
I don't believe that using Zicam is about whether or not one has a dietary zinc insufficiency or not. While it is my understanding that zinc can support one's immune system and aid in fighting off the virus, its action appears to be chemical and mechanical more than dietary. I found research links at jac.oxfordjournals.org and medscape.com about the efficacy of zinc in treating colds, but was unable to post them for you here.
According to all the research that I have read, using Zicam AS DIRECTED, at the first sign of a cold, does work, and my own experience substantiates that claim. If one waits too long, however, to start using it, its efficacy drops off in a very direct relationship between the number of hours since any symptoms were felt and the start of using the Zicam.
An alert reader asked for some additional information, so here is my updated response:
Did you experience any side effects?
Are there any warnings on the package?
The Cherry Melts taste like cherry flavoring on a powdered candy -- sort of vaguely sweet and cherry-like, but not like real cherries. They come in the form of tablets about half an inch across and are supposed to be melted in your mouth, not chewed or swallowed. It usually takes about five minutes or less for the tablets to dissolve.
The only side effect I have noticed is that the surface of my tongue is a little sensitive for an hour or so after allowing the melt tablet to dissolve, but it is a temporary effect.
No warnings of significance that I am aware of, just directions. The melts must be started at the earliest possible sign of a cold in order to be effective, must be taken regularly every three hours, no citrus beverages or fruits for 30 minutes before and after taking the melt, and must be taken for at least a day, preferably two, after the symptoms are gone.
Hope that's helpful!