Sneezing, sore throat, a stuffy nose, coughing -- everyone knows the symptoms of the common cold. It is probably the most common illness. In the course of a year, people in the United States suffer 1 billion colds.
What can you do for your cold or cough symptoms? Besides drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest, you may want to take medicines. There are lots of different cold and cough medicines, and they do different things.
- Nasal decongestants - unclog a stuffy nose
- Cough suppressants - quiet a cough
- Expectorants - loosen mucus so you can cough it up
- Antihistamines - stop runny noses and sneezing
- Pain relievers - ease fever, headaches, and minor aches and pains
Here are some other things to keep in mind about cold and cough medicines. Read labels, because many cold and cough medicines contain the same active ingredients. Taking too much of certain pain relievers can lead to serious injury. Do not give cough medicines to children under four, and don't give aspirin to children. Finally, antibiotics won't help a cold.
Food and Drug Administration
- Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Cold Remedies (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)
- Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, What Can't Hurt (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Cough Medicine: Understanding Your OTC Options (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Decongestants: OTC Relief for Congestion (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Time To Talk About Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say? (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- Don't Double Up on Acetaminophen (Food and Drug Administration) Available in Spanish
- High Blood Pressure and Cold Remedies: Which Are Safe? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Misuse of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Medications among Persons Aged 12 to 25 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
- Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies? (American Academy of Pediatrics) Available in Spanish
- Daily Medicine Record for Your Child (Food and Drug Administration)
- OTC Cough and Cold Products: Not for Infants and Children Under 2 Years of Age (Food and Drug Administration)
- Cough and Cold Medicine (DXM and Codeine Syrup) (National Institute on Drug Abuse)