Zicam stinks? You wouldn't know, on account of losing your sense of smell forever.

by JGordon on Jun. 19th, 2009

Dude! No!: Aaargh! It's too late! Might as well get a job as a crime scene cleaner now.
Dude! No!: Aaargh! It's too late! Might as well get a job as a crime scene cleaner now.Courtesy Dimmerswitch
Check it out: The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that people avoid Zicam. Why? Because it may cause you to lose your precious sense of smell.

Zicam (Zicam nasal gel in particular) is a popular homeopathic cold remedy. (I say it's popular because the NY Times says so, and because I vaguely remember seeing a bottle of it lying around my living room this winter.) You stick it up your nose, and blast away. It's got zinc, galphimia glauca, histamine dihydrochloride, luffa opercolata, and sulfur in it. These ingredients are reported by some people to reduce the length or severity of the common cold (although the virus remains incurable).

Over the last several years, hundreds of people have reported that use of Zicam has destroyed their sense of smell. The manufacturers of Zicam paid out $12 million to some of these people in 2006, although their attitude in general has been, "Well, y'all have the cold. What did you expect to smell?"

The FDA, on the other hand, has pointed to the connection between zinc in other nasally administered drugs, and the loss of the sense of smell, or "anosmia." They're all, "Hey, everybody, stop using Zicam if you want to continue smelling things forever. And, Zicam people, cut it out. We need our smells."

And the Zicam people are all, "Whatever. If anybody wants their money back, just ask. Otherwise, enjoy some more Zicam!"

What does everybody think? Fans of Zicam out there? Is the possible risk associated with this homeopathic remedy insignificant compared to any problems associated with conventional cold symptom medications? Anybody lose their sense of smell from Zicam? Anybody lose their sense of smell from, like, anything?

Let's have it.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

kitty lover's picture
kitty lover says:

The only reason people have lost their smell is because they haven't used it right. The gel isn't meant to be snorted up your nose, only a tiny drop is supposed to be put on the inside of your nose. It isn't Zicam's fault that people don't follow the directions. The author of this totally put it in the wrong perspective.

posted on Sun, 06/21/2009 - 3:06pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I do my best to find the wrong perspective, and then put things there, Kitty lover.

Incorrect use of the product could be an issue here, and I'm glad you brought it up. None of the articles I read on the controversy mentioned the possibility that misuse of Zicam had been the cause of the anosmia, though. The makers of Zicam themselves never even mentioned that, but that could be because doing so would be admitting that the product is dangerous in some respect.

But, for the sake of argument, let's say that not following directions is what caused people to lose their sense of smell. Is that okay? Losing a sense (perhaps permanently!) is a pretty serious thing to happen just for being a dope about the way you use something you can buy off the shelf. What if the incorrect application of sunscreen caused you to become permanently numb? An answer might be, "well, if you're dumb enough to do that, you deserve to be numb," except that sunscreen and probably Zicam are the sort of things people administer to their kids.

So should a potentially dangerous product like this be regulated to save people from dopes? Except that Zicam hasn't officially been proven to do anything, not anosmia nor cold-curing.

Maybe the FDA's recommendation that people avoid the product is fine? Maybe it's not their business? Maybe Zicam should make it clear on the container that incorrect use of the product could leave you with only four senses?

What do you think?

posted on Mon, 06/22/2009 - 9:43am
Marla Bradbury's picture

We noticed that you recently wrote about the FDA warning issued to Zicam about two of its 19 products (Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel and Zicam Cold Remedy Gel Swabs). Since there has been much misinformation in the news over the past week, we invite your readers to click here to get the facts. They also can find out how to get a refund or product exchange for one of our other products not affected by the FDA warning.

Marla Bradbury

posted on Thu, 06/25/2009 - 7:16pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My wife squirted zicam up her nose on 3 separate days, 1x a day and she's lost her smell and taste. She read the directions, down to the tee. Simple. Insert, squirt. Done.

posted on Mon, 07/20/2009 - 10:07pm
Matt K's picture
Matt K says:

I've used Zicam probably 10-20 times over the last several years. It was a great way to stop a cold before it ever really got started. I don't smell very good, and I know this because my sense of smell is as keen as ever. The key to use was to squirt or swab the product in the bottom corner of your nose. It should never go up beyond the nostril. I'm hoping to be able to get some from Mexico or something...

posted on Tue, 07/28/2009 - 8:37pm
Aliah Way's picture
Aliah Way says:

ive used zicam about 10-20 times over tha last several years. it wuz great

posted on Wed, 07/29/2009 - 2:20pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options