Two clinical trials were conducted, one involving 273 subjects with experimental rhinovirus colds and the other involving 281 subjects with natural colds. Symptomatic volunteers were randomized to receive oral lozenges containing zinc gluconate (13.3 mg), zinc acetate (5 or 11.5 mg), or placebo. The median duration of illness in zinc gluconate recipients was 2.5 days, contrasted with 3.5 days in the placebo recipients (P=.035), in the experimental colds study. Zinc gluconate had no effect on symptom severity and zinc acetate had no effect on either duration or severity. Neither formulation had an effect on the duration or severity of natural cold symptoms. Evaluation of blinding, taste, and adverse events revealed no significant differences among the 4 treatment arms. Zinc compounds appear to have little utility for common-cold treatment.