Best Treatment Options for Common cold

There is no specific treatment for the common cold as it is caused by a viral infection and antibiotics do not work against viruses. The best course of action is to manage the symptoms. Here are some treatment options for the common cold:

Pain relievers

For a fever, sore throat and headache, adults often turn to OTC acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). For treatment of fever or pain in children, consider giving your child infants’ or children’s over-the-counter fever and pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). These are safer alternatives to aspirin.

For children younger than 3 months old, don’t give acetaminophen until your baby has been seen by a doctor. Don’t give ibuprofen to a child younger than 6 months old or to children who are vomiting constantly or are dehydrated.

Decongestant nasal sprays

Adults can use decongestant drops or sprays for up to five days. Prolonged use can cause rebound symptoms. Children younger than 6 years old shouldn’t use decongestant drops or sprays. Talk to your doctor before using nasal decongestants in children older than 6 years.

Cough syrups

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are intended to treat the symptoms of coughs and colds, not the underlying disease. Research suggests that these medicines haven’t been proved to work any better to treat colds than do inactive medicine (placebo).

If you use over-the counter cough and cold medicines, follow the label directions. Don’t take two medicines with the same active ingredient, such as an antihistamine, decongestant or pain reliever. Too much of a single ingredient could lead to an accidental overdose.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To make yourself as comfortable as possible when you have a cold, try some of these suggestions:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking fluids to stay hydrated
  • Sip warm liquids
  • Decongestants to relieve nasal congestion
  • Cough suppressants to relieve coughing
  • Steam inhalation, which can help to relieve congestion
  • Adjust your room’s temperature and humidity.
  • Try saline nasal drops or sprays

Alternative medicine

In spite of ongoing studies, the scientific jury is still out on common alternative cold remedies such as vitamin C, echinacea and zinc. Because alternative cold remedies have not been studied in children, they are generally not recommended for use in children. Here’s an update on some popular choices:

Vitamin C

It appears that for the most part taking vitamin C won’t help the average person prevent colds. However, some studies have found that taking vitamin C before cold symptoms start may shorten the length of time you have symptoms.


Study results on whether echinacea prevents or shortens colds are mixed. Some studies show no benefit. Others show some reduction in the severity and duration of cold symptoms when taken in the early stages of a cold. Different types of echinacea used in different studies may have contributed to the mixed results.

Echinacea seems to be most effective if you take it when you notice cold symptoms and continue it for seven to 10 days. It appears to be safe for healthy adults, but it can interact with many drugs. Check with your doctor before taking echinacea or any other supplement.


Several studies have suggested that zinc supplements may reduce the length of a cold. But research has turned up mixed results about zinc and colds. Some studies show that zinc lozenges or syrup reduce the length of a cold by about one day, especially when taken within 24 to 48 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold. Zinc also has potentially harmful side effects.

Intranasal zinc might cause permanent damage to the sense of smell. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning against using zinc-containing nasal cold remedies because they are associated with a long-lasting or permanent loss of smell. Talk to your doctor before considering the use of zinc to prevent or reduce the length of colds.

Do note that, if symptoms are severe or prolonged, it is recommended to seek medical attention. It’s also important to note that some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines should not be given to children under 4 years of age, and some should not be given to children under 6 years of age, so consult with a pediatrician before giving any medication to children.