Munson Health
 
Common Cold

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by Carson-DeWitt R

(Viral Rhinitis; Upper Respiratory Infection)

 

Treatment

A cold usually lasts 10 days or longer. There are no cures for a cold, but treatments can relieve your symptoms. These include:

Home Care

To make you more comfortable:
  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids. Warm beverages, like tea, and chicken soup are soothing. They may also help decrease congestion.
  • Use a humidifier. A cool-mist humidifier will keep your nasal passages moist. Humidifiers may also loosen congestion. Be sure to clean the humidifier every day.
  • Try nasal flushing with a neti-pot or saline spray. This can help loosen mucus. You can buy these items at most health food stores and pharmacies
  • Gargle with warm salt water. It can help soothe a sore throat.

Over-the-Counter Medications

To relieve aches, pains, and fever consider non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prescription antiviral medication is usually not necessary.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Cough and cold medications include:
  • Decongestants
  • Expectorants
  • Antihistamines
  • Antitussives
  • Throat lozenges
  • Vapor rub
Note: Cough and cold medicines in should not be used in children under 2 years old, and they are not recommended in children under 4 years old. The US Food and Drug Administration has not completed its review regarding the safety of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children ages 2-11 years. Rare, but serious side effects have been reported.
Decongestant pills or nasal sprays can shrink nasal passages. They also decrease mucus production. Nasal sprays should only be used for 2-3 days. Longer use can lead to increased congestion when you stop using the product.

Alternative Treatments

Many people use alternative treatments to relieve their cold symptoms. Some of the more popular choices include:
  • Vitamin C —Taking extra vitamin C at the start of a cold has not been shown to be of any benefit. Some believe that taking vitamin C throughout the cold season may help reduce symptoms or shorten how long the cold lasts.
  • Zinc lozenges—Taking zinc lozenges at the start of a cold may help shorten the length of the cold.
  • Echinacea —Echinacea might help people to recover faster from a cold. But, there is little evidence that it can prevent colds if taken in advance.
  • Honey —While honey has not been shown to affect the severity or length of a common cold, it may improve nighttime cough and sleep disruption in children. Do not give honey to infants younger than 12 months because of the risk of infant botulism.
Note: Some supplements and herbal treatments may not be pure. Many can also interact with prescription medications and over-the-counter products. Talk to your doctor before using any of these products.
 

RESOURCES

American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

 

References


Cold and cough medicine: Information for patients. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/pediatriccoldmeds . Updated September 11, 2009. Accessed August 26, 2013.


Colds and flu. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary . Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed August 26, 2013.


Common cold. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/commoncold/pages/default.aspx . Updated August 17, 2011. Accessed August 26, 2013.


Upper respiratory infection (URI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated August 11, 2013. Accessed August 26, 2013.


12/4/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Lizogub VG, Riley DS, Heger M. Efficacy of a pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Explore (NY). 2007;3:573-584.


1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Public health advisory: Nonprescription cough and cold medicine use in children—FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm051137.htm . Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed August 26, 2013.


1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, et al. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:1149-1153.


2/26/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Slapak I, Skoupá J, Strnad P, Horník P. Efficacy of isotonic nasal wash (seawater) in the treatment and prevention of rhinitis in children. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008;134:67-74.


10/29/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Arruda E, Pitkäranta A, Witek TJ Jr, Doyle CA, Hayden FG. Frequency and natural history of rhinovirus infections in adults during autumn. J Clin Microbiol. 1997;35:2864-2868.
Pappas DE, Hendley JO, Hayden FG, Winther B. Symptom profile of common colds in school-aged children. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2008;27:8-11.


8/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Hemila H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17;(3):CD000980.


2/25/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Sing M, Das R. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(2):CD001364.


7/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Paul IM, Beiler JS, King TS, Clapp ER, Vallati J, Berlin CM. Vapor rub, petrolatum, and no treatment for children with nocturnal cough and cold symptoms. Pediatrics. 2010;126(6):1092-1099.


9/25/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 18;6.