How are colds treated?

There is no cure for a cold, but getting enough rest is the best way to make a quick recovery. Talk with your doctor before taking any medication or giving medication to your child.

Over-the-counter cold medications may relieve the symptoms of a cold. However, the benefits of these medications are minimal. Some of these medications include the following:

  • Acetaminophen relieves the aches and pains of a cold without upsetting the stomach. Aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 18 because of its link to Reye's Syndrome, a disorder that mostly affects children 4 to 12 years old and causes brain damage and death.
  • Decongestants may relieve nasal congestion, but the effects are minimal and these are generally not recommended for children because they may have significant adverse effects.
  • Antihistamines are occasionally used to stop a runny nose and sneezing.
  • Cough suppressants may diminish a cough in adults, but these medications have not been found to be beneficial for children, and may have significant adverse effects in children.
  • Expectorants loosen mucous so that it can be easily expelled.

Drinking plenty of fluids will keep the nose and throat moist and will loosen mucous. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine because they have a drying effect.

Antibiotics should not be used to treat a cold. Antibiotics are effective against bacteria only. They will not work on colds (which are caused by viruses), may have adverse effects, and may cause future infections to be worse and last longer.

Many people take supplements and herbal remedies, such as zinc, Vitamin C, and echinacea to treat and prevent colds. These remedies have been studied and their effectiveness has not been verified. They also may have unwelcome adverse effects such as diarrhea. Tell your doctor if you are taking supplements and herbal remedies.

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