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Treatment Options for common cold

Common cold is an illness that prompts frequent use of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and alternative remedies.

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Choice of medication

A cold can be treated at home with OTC medications. The choice of medication depends more on the symptoms that the condition. It depends on what troubles the person most. If for instance, the congestion in the nose is more severe than the other symptoms, a nasal decongestant would be the choice. If there is nasal congestion along with frequent sneezing, a combination of a decongestant with an antihistamine would help. Every person will have his or her own choice of what symptoms he would like to get rid of. The right combination can be picked up depending on the symptom and severity.

Some of the options available are


Analgesics (pain relieving medications) are used to relieve headaches.

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The OTC drugs for these medications that are commonly used are


Decongestants are available OTC and can provide much needed symptomatic relief from running nose, stuffy nose etc. Some of the common decongestants are psuedoephedrine and nasal spray decongestants such as phenylephrine or oxymetolazone.

Among all the therapies available to provide symptomatic relief from common cold, studies have shown decongestants to be better than the rest.1


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These are used broadly to treat symptoms of all kinds of allergic conditions. They are available OTC, and by prescription. Some are also available that have a decongestant added to the antihistamine.

These can be either sedating or nonsedating.

Sedating antihistamins:

The nonsedating ones are the oral medications like loratadine, desloratadine, fexofenadine, cetirizine, levocetirizine and a nasal spray such as azelastine.

Non sedating antihistamins:

There are older anihistamines like diphenhydramine, brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine and clemastine. These are equally effective but because of their sedating ability, these drugs must be used with caution especially if work involves concentration like operating machinery or driving etc.

Cough preparations

Dextromethorphan may be beneficial in adults with cough, however, its effectiveness has not been proven in children and adolescents.2,3 Codeine and hydrocodone have not been shown to effectively treat cough caused by the common cold, although they have been shown to be effective in treating cough caused by other conditions. Newer nonsedating antihistamines are ineffective against cough.2 Bisolvon and Letosteine (mucolytics) were found to be effective for cough in some studies. Guaiphenesin, an expectorant has also been shown to be effective.3

Topical ipratropium

Topical ipratropium, a prescription anticholinergic, has been shown to relieve nasal symptoms in older children and adults. Antibiotics have not been shown to improve symptoms or shorten illness duration in common cold.2

Other treatment options

Some of the home remedies have long been believed to provide much needed symptomatic relief from common cold. Most of these options are designed to increase the body’s natural immunity. Hot water with lemon juice and honey have been found to increase the well- being in a person suffering from cold. Inhalation of steam has been found to decrease nasal secretions and improve the symptoms.

Herbal remedies for common cold

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 14, 2016