zinc sulfate (generic name)

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DISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.


Case study evidence reports a patient with zinc oxide allergy.

Side Effects and Warnings

Zinc is regarded as a relatively safe and generally well tolerated when taken at recommended doses, and few studies report side effects. Occasionally, adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been observed.

Sideroblastic anemia, leukopenia, microcytic anemia, and neutropenia have been reported in individual case reports following the ingestion of large amounts of zinc.

Reduced levels of high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) "good" cholesterol have been observed following daily supplementation with zinc.

Unpleasant taste, taste distortion, and abdominal cramping have been occasionally reported, especially in studies examining the efficacy of zinc containing lozenges in treating symptoms of common cold or treatment of diarrhea in children. Bleeding gastric erosion, hepatitis (liver inflammation), liver failure, and intestinal bleeding have been reported in individual case reports following the ingestion of higher zinc doses.

Acute tubular necrosis and interstitial nephritis have been reported following the ingestion of large amounts of zinc (doses not specified). Patients with severe kidney disease should reduce or omit taking zinc because it is primarily eliminated in urine.

There is one case report of a fatal outcome from cystic degeneration in putamen and necrosis in the hypothalamus. It was reported as a consequence of zinc treatment for Wilson's disease; however, the patient had received penicillamine, followed by a relatively high dose of zinc per day for several weeks, followed by penicillamine again for an unspecified time so it remains unclear if zinc was responsible for the death.

Slight tingling or burning sensation in the nostril has been reported from zinc nasal gel. A trend toward increased respiratory infections in children has been noted. One case of hypersensitivity pneumonitis has been reported.

Reports of skin conditions have been noted. In one study, worsening of an acne condition was observed following topical application of zinc, although many studies show positive effects of zinc on acne. A case report suggested the presence of dermatitis due to zinc deficiency.

High-quality studies have found evidence of an association between high-dose zinc supplement use and hospitalization for urinary complications, including benign prostatic hyperplasia/urinary retention, urinary tract infection, and urinary lithiasis. This was especially evident among males.

There is one report of death following the ingestion of 400 coins (mostly pennies). Pennies are composed mostly of zinc. Reduced immune responses have also been observed in a small study.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnancy, Category A: Zinc is categorized as Pregnancy Category A. If this drug is used during pregnancy, the possibility of fetal harm appears remote. Because studies cannot rule out the possibility of harm, however, zinc acetate should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed. Zinc appears to be safe in amounts that do not exceed the established tolerable upper intake level.

Pregnancy, Category C: Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with zinc chloride. It is also not known whether zinc chloride can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity. Zinc chloride should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed under medical supervision.

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