How are colds treated?

There’s no cure for a cold. You have to let it run its course. Over-the-counter medications can reduce your symptoms to keep you more comfortable until you recover.

Why can’t antibiotics cure a cold?

Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria. Because viruses cause colds, antibiotics don’t work for colds.

What cold medicines relieve symptoms?

Over-the-counter medications to treat cold symptoms are widely available. But some of these medications aren’t safe for children. Check with your healthcare provider before giving your child over-the-counter medications. Be careful not to combine medicines that treat multiple symptoms. If you do, you could wind up overdosing (getting too much) of some ingredients, which could cause other health problems, including organ damage.

Medications that relieve cold symptoms include:

  • Pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil®) relieve headaches and fever.
  • Decongestants: Drugs like pseudoephedrine (Contac Cold 12 Hour® and Sudafed®) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE®) are intended to reduce stuffiness.
  • Antihistamines: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and other antihistamines stop sneezing and a runny nose.
  • Cough suppressants: Medications such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin® and Vicks DayQuil Cough®) and codeine reduce coughing.
  • Expectorants: Guaifenesin (Mucinex®) and other expectorants thin and loosen mucus.

What are the best cold remedies?

You may have heard that supplements and herbal remedies, such as zinc, Vitamin C and echinacea can treat and prevent colds.

Researchers haven’t found that any of those remedies can prevent colds. But zinc may shorten the illness and reduce symptoms. However, it may cause permanent loss of smell, especially when you use it in nasal sprays.

The best and safest way to make a speedy recovery is to get plenty of rest. Consider taking time off from work or school for at least the first few days of illness. Not only will you have more time to rest, but you’ll avoid spreading germs to others.

Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids to keep your nose and throat moist. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they have a drying effect.

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