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Sep 21, 2022

Cold & Flu

Treatment for a Common Cold

Common illnesses like the flu and the common cold can result in a variety of painful symptoms. Although you may be familiar with the common cold, there are several things you should know that can make you feel better.

What is a Common Cold?

The common cold, a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (your nose and throat), is caused by over 200 viruses including rhinovirus.

It’s transmitted by mucus secretions, from hands/handshaking, or by air from coughing and sneezing.

It’s recommended to cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, rather than into your hand, which can then touch surfaces and spread illnesses. You run the risk of contracting the common cold if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after such contact.

Frequent hand cleaning with soap and/or hand sanitizers is essential.

What are the Symptoms of a Common Cold?

Common cold symptoms typically appear approximately 1–3 days after being exposed to a cold-causing virus and tend to last for about 1 week.

Cold Symptoms

  • Low-grade fever (below 102°F)
  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Runny and/or stuffy nose
  • Thick, dark mucus
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Ill feeling
  • Body aches
  • Mild-moderate headache
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus pressure
  • Chills

Home Remedies for a Common Cold

Common cold home remedies do not treat or cure a common cold. Instead, they can assist in lessening the intensity and difficulty of your symptoms.

Zinc lozenges

  • Zinc is commonly taken every 2 hours while awake, especially starting within 24 hours of symptom onset for cold prevention and treatment
  • According to studies, taking Zinc lozenges or syrups may help reduce your symptoms and shorten the duration of a cold.
  • Zinc lozenges may cause mouth irritation, a metallic taste, and nausea. As their prolonged use can result in copper deficiency, they should not be used for longer than 5-7 days.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplementation

  • Some studies have shown a reduction in the duration of the cold by 1-1.5 days at doses of 1-3 grams per day.
  • High doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea and possible kidney stones in males.


  • Due to its antibacterial qualities, honey may be able to combat some viruses and bacteria.


  • Getting enough sleep enables your body to conserve energy while the virus runs its course.

Drink warm fluids

  • Maintaining a healthy level of hydration aids in both relieving congestion and replacing lost fluids.

Vapor rub

  • This can help expand your airways and relieve congestion.

Gargling salt water

  • You can soothe inflammation in your throat by gargling with salt water.
Cold treatment options

Treatment Options for a Common Cold

Most instances of the common cold resolve on their own, often in a week to 10 days, without medical intervention.

Antibiotics cannot be used to treat viruses. Viruses like the common cold just require time to pass. Although the infection itself cannot be treated, the symptoms of the infection can be managed. Treatment depends on the symptoms that are currently present; each individual will present differently and need a different course of action/treatment plan.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the duration and frequency of your symptoms to allow you to feel better and return to normal activities.


Cough associated with colds is typically non-productive (dry cough).

Expectorants can be used to lessen phlegm velocity in your lower respiratory tract and boost secretions in your upper respiratory tract to help transport phlegm upward and out if you have a productive (phlegm/mucus) cough.

Guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin Mucus + Chest Congestion, Robafen)

200–400 mg every 4 hours, or 600–1,200 mg extended-release every 12 hours

  • Children between the ages of 6–11 years old: 1,200 mg daily
  • Children between the ages of 4–5 years old: 600 mg daily
  • This medication is available over-the-counter (OTC)

Common Side Effects:
nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, rash, diarrhea, stomach upset

Cough suppressants

Cough suppressants are used for dry, unproductive cough, or to suppress productive cough at night to allow for restless sleep.

Dextromethorphan (Delsym, DayQuil Cough)

10–20 mg every 4 hours as needed, or 30 mg every 6–8 hours as needed, or 60 mg extended-release every 12 hours as needed

  • Children between the ages of 6–12 years old: 60 mg daily
  • Children between the ages of 4–6 years old: 30 mg daily
  • Dextromethorphan works by affecting the signals in your brain that trigger cough reflex.
  • This medication is available over-the-counter (OTC)

Common Side Effects:
nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, anxiety, restless feeling, nervousness, slow breathing

Benzonatate (Tessalon Perles)

100–200 mg three times a day as needed
Benzonatate is a non-narcotic cough medicine, that works by numbing your throat and lungs, making the cough reflex less active.

Order benzonatate

Common Side Effects:
sleepiness, confusion, hallucinations, drowsiness and/or dizziness, numbness in your chest, headache, nausea, stuffy nose, itching/rash

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl):

25 mg every 4 hours as needed
This medication is an antihistamine that’s available as OTC and prescription.

Cough and cold combination products

The following cough and cold combination products are available by prescription only.


15 mg/6.25 mg per 5 mL
This medication is an antihistamine that’s available as OTC and prescription.

  • Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant. Promethazine is an antihistamine.
  • A combination medication containing dextromethorphan and promethazine is used to treat cough, runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing brought on by colds or allergies.
Brompheniramine/Pseudoephedrine/Dextromethorphan (Bromide DM):

2 mg/30 mg/10 mg per 5 mL
This medication is an antihistamine that’s available as OTC and prescription.

  • Brompheniramine is an antihistamine. Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant. Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant.
  • This medication is used to treat symptoms of allergies or the common cold, such as cough, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.

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