Colds are very common. A visit to the doctor’s office is often not needed, and colds usually get better in 3 - 4 days.
A type of germ called a virus causes most colds. There are many types of viruses that can cause a cold. Depending on what virus you have, your symptoms may vary.
Common symptoms of a cold include:
Treating your symptoms will not make your cold go away, but will help you feel better. Antibiotics are almost never needed to treat a common cold.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever and relieve muscle aches.
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children.
Many cough and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you don't take too much of any one medicine. If you take prescription medications for another health problem, ask your health care provide which OTC cold medications are safe for you.
Drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, and stay away from secondhand smoke.
Wheezing can be a common symptom of a cold if you have asthma.
Many home remedies are popular treatments for the common cold. These include vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea.
Although not well proven to help, most home remedies are safe for most people.
Keep your hands clean by washing them often. This is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
To wash your hands correctly:
Other tips to prevent colds:
Try treating your cold at home first. Call your health care provider right away, or go to the emergency room, if you have:
Also call your doctor if:
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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