By Jeanelle Murphy, DO
The common cold is caused by a virus. There are over 200 common cold viruses but the most common are rhinovirus, coronavirus (not Covid), and enterovirus.
Common cold spreads easily from person to person through respiratory droplets (masks can help prevent the spread of common cold too), and saliva. The common cold is more common in the winter because more people are indoors where the viruses spread more easily. The symptoms of the common cold are runny nose, congestion, sneezing, sore throat, headache, and cough. Common cold usually does not cause fever. The symptoms usually last up to 2 weeks.
Treatment for the common cold is not necessary but if the symptoms are making you miserable there are over-the-counter treatments out there. Some over-the-counter treatments can react with prescription medication you’re taking or can aggravate an existing medical condition ( especially if you have a heart condition) so read the label or talk to your health care provider first.
Drink plenty of fluids especially water or electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade or Pedialyte. Hot tea may be soothing for sore throat and cough. Get plenty of rest. Use a humidifier since dry air can aggravate an irritated nose. Use saline nasal drops or a saline nasal rinse to help with runny nose and congestion. Suction a baby’s nose after using a drop of saline in the nose before feedings since they breathe mainly out of their nose. Dark honey can be helpful for cough for those over one year of age.
Medications*: Mucolytics such as Guaifenesin can help make coughing and blowing more effective by thinning out mucous.
Decongestants such as Sudafed can help dry up mucous but can elevate blood pressure and heart rate so if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure it’s best to avoid these.
Coricidin HBP is an alternative for people with heart problems or high blood pressure.
Cough suppressants such as Delsym or Dextromethorphan can be helpful.
Tylenol or ibuprofen may help with headache and sore throat however avoid ibuprofen if taking a blood thinner or if you have a history of stomach ulcers. Aspirin can be used also for pain by adults not taking a blood thinner and without a history of stomach ulcers but not children due to the risk of a liver condition known as Reye’s syndrome.
Throat lozenges such as Halls will help with a sore throat and sometimes cough.
Nasal sprays such as Flonase may help with congestion, cough, and sinus symptoms.
Antibiotics are only used if there is a secondary bacterial infection such as bacterial sinus or ear infection or pneumonia.
See your doctor if symptoms are lasting more than 2 weeks or worsen after a week.
*Over the counter medications for the common cold are not recommended for children under 6 years of age because the medications generally don’t work in this age group and may cause dangerous side effects.