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Zicam Cold Products Linked to Loss of Sense of Smell

By David Goguen on June 16, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Use of certain Zicam Cold Remedy products may cause permanent loss of the sense of smell, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers.

The following over-the-counter, zinc-containing nasal cold remedy products (marketed by Matrixx Initiatives) should not be used by consumers:

  • Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel
  • Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs
  • Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size (discontinued, but may still be in your medicine cabinet)

The FDA says that it has received 130 reports of loss of sense of smell linked to these three Zicam products, with many people saying the loss of smell (called "anosmia") came about with the first dose of the product. The health agency says that anosmia can be long-lasting or permanent.

The loss of the ability to smell may not only lessen the quality of life (enjoying food, stopping to smell the roses, etc.), it can also make it difficult or impossible to smell smoke or gas leaks, as the FDA points out.

Matrixx, the maker of the Zicam products, has already been hit with a number of lawsuits over the loss of smell problem, according to, but the company denies any liability on its website: "The company contends that 'there is no known causal link between the use of Zicam Cold Remedy nasal gel and impairment of smell.'"

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