Cochrane LibraryInfantsInfectionZinc

Does zinc prevent middle ear infections?

Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by infection) affects people of all ages, but is particularly common in young children.

This Cochrane review evaluated studies of children younger than 5 years.

First, the details.

  • 12 studies were selected for this review.

And, the results.

  • In healthy children living in low-income communities
    • 2 studies in 3191 participants reported no difference between the zinc and placebo in the numbers of participants with otitis media during follow up.
    • Another study showed a significantly lower incidence of otitis media in the zinc group.
  • Infants treated for severe malnutrition
    • A small study of 39 infants suggested a benefit of zinc on the mean number of episodes of otitis media.
  • There were no serious side effects, although a small minority of children vomited shortly after taking the supplements.

The bottom line?

Results are mixed.

The authors concluded, “There is some evidence of benefit in children being treated for marasmus [extreme malnutrition and emaciation], but this is based on one small trial and should therefore be treated with caution.

2/19/10 22:34 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.