Colds are among the most common of medical issues that, until today, continue to persist in society without a proper cure. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, colds are the main reason why adults miss work, and children miss school. Adults in the United States get around two to three colds every year, and children have more.
This medical condition usually happens during winter or spring, but it can happen at virtually any time of the year. It can happen to anyone, but children aged five and under are especially prone to it, especially if they spend a lot of time in child-care settings. Similarly, those who smoke can not only develop colds more but also develop a cold that is harsher than normal. And those who are frequently exposed to more people, such as the case in schools or airports, may be at risk more so than others.
There are various reasons why we get a cold, but the most common remains to be rhinoviruses. These viruses are spread through air droplets when somebody who has colds talks, sneezes, or coughs. They can also be communicated via hand-to-hand, hand-to-mouth, or hand-to-eye contact, especially that which comes from materials like telephones or utensils.
The most typical symptoms include sneezing, headache, runny nose, and sore throat. In some cases, it is associated with body aches and coughing, as well. And while it usually gets resolved on its own within 10 days, it is known to mess up our days and leave us feeling weak for a time. Some people may also develop more serious conditions like bronchitis or pneumonia if a cold is left unmanaged for an already compromised immune system.
If you don’t want to have to deal with colds when it hits, or you want to contain it as soon as it occurs, there are luckily medications that we can turn to. Ten of the best of them are discussed in the next section.
A multi-symptom formulation, the Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion Ultratabs are considered to be the best at temporarily relieving the most common symptoms of the common cold for anyone aged 6 and up. This relief lasts for 24 hours and works even for other respiratory allergy conditions. The Ultratabs feature 25 milligrams of diphenhydramine HCl to free you from a runny nose, itchy nose or throat, sneezing, and watery eyes.
- Provides multi-symptom relief for the common cold and other respiratory allergies
- Fast action formula that offers temporary relief for 24 hours
- Has good reviews across multiple sites
- Can cause drowsiness
The Sudafed PE Congestion Tablets are another version of the brand’s original formula but build on its previous formulation’s ability to ease cold symptoms. Containing 10 milligrams of phenylephrine, these products are non-drowsy takes to temporarily relieving sinus pressure and nasal congestion. They are also ideal for mitigating the symptoms of hay fever and other respiratory allergies. For a better shopping experience, you can also choose between boxes of 18 or 36.
- Provides effective all-day relief from congestion from the common cold and other allergy conditions
- Offers a fast-relief and non-drowsy formula
- Available over-the-counter
- Some people say the drug can interfere with sleep if taken late at night
- Some people found that this formula is not as effective as the original formulation
A trusted name, Advil has enjoyed a reputation of being a safe and effective pain reliever for about three decades. In fact, the brand claims that it is the number one selling pain reliever, among all over-the-counter products of its kind. It is ideal for temporarily easing a wide variety of pains and aches, such as menstrual pain, backaches, minor arthritis, other joint issues, and muscle aches. For cold relief, it is also considered to work against cold-related pains and aches.
- Targets multiple pains and aches that go even beyond colds
- One of the most trusted products of its kind on the market
- Enjoys many positive reviews
- May interact with certain drugs
Another trusted name, Tylenol Regular Strength tablets feature acetaminophen as their active ingredient, which is considered ideal for relieving also a wide suite of pains and aches. These include premenstrual and menstrual cramps, minor arthritis, toothaches, and the effects of the common colds. The brand also asserts that this product is recommended by doctors to provide fast-acting temporary pain relief. And it helps ease fevers, temporarily.
- A trusted name in the industry
- Delivers fast-acting effective relief for a wide range of pains, aches, and even fever
- Some patients have found that the brand’s packaging makes it difficult to open the cap
The Allegra Adult 12-HR Allergy Relief tablets offer 60 mg of the antihistamine Fexofenadine HCI and effectively provide 24-hours of temporary relief from a wide suite of symptoms from the common cold and other allergic issues. These include a runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. The formulation is also non-drowsy and works in as fast as an hour. And it is non-drowsy, so you can go about your day without worries.
- A fast-acting non-drowsy formulation that works in as fast as an hour
- Provides a full day of temporary relief from multiple cold and allergy symptoms
- Works for both indoor and outdoor allergens
- Some users say it can interfere with sleep
If your cold has led to mucus build-up that leads to a cough, the Mucinex DM 12-Hour Expectorant, and Cough Suppressant tablets are your best bet. According to the brand, the products are the number-one recommended product of its kind by internists, general practitioners, and family practitioners. The tablets feature two layers of combined 600mg Guaifenesin & 30 mg dextromethorphan HBr: the first layer offers immediate relief, while the second layer breaks down slowly to keep providing relief for the next 12 hours. Packs of these products come in 20 to 40 options.
- Offers effective and lasting relief from a cough
- Features a special bi-layer formulation that delivers more efficient results
- Quiets wet and dry coughs while also loosening mucus buildup
- Some users think the products come with short expiration dates
- Some users also say it interferes with sleep
If you want to steer clear of drug formulations and opt for natural and homeopathic remedies, the Sambucol Black Elderberry Cold and Flu Relief tablets are one of your best options. Ideal for people aged 4 years old and above, these tablets can temporarily relieve anything from sneezing and runny nose to chills and fever. The brand also claims that these products have no known drug interactions and non-habit forming. Plus, they taste great!
- A homeopathic remedy that provides relief for most symptoms associated with the common cold
- Tastes great
- Offers great value for money
- Contains no active ingredients
- Works best only at the onset of a cold
These tablets contain two formulations of zinc: Zincum Aceticum, Zincum Gluconicum. The brand claims that these quick-dissolve tablets are the best at shortening the duration of a cold if they are taken at the first sign of the condition. Like Sambucol, these tablets are homeopathic and great-tasting. They also come in a non-drowsy formulation and do not reportedly interact with any known drugs.
- Touted to be the number-one cold shortening product of its kind
- Non-drowsy, non-habit forming, and do not interact with known drugs
- Homeopathic and natural
- Also comes with a nice citrus flavor
- Only contains two active ingredients
- Works best only at the onset of a cold
OHCO Cold Snap Powder offers a whopping combination of 20 herbs to provide relief from flu and cold symptoms, as well as issues associated with allergy season. An all-natural homeopathic remedy, the tablets mixes Chinese herbal medicine with Western healthcare practices to provide a product that the brand claims is safe for people of all ages, and even for pregnant women. The formulation of the medicine also makes it easy for people to take as much as they need, as long as they don’t go above 24 caps in 24 hours. Finally, these tablets boost your immune system.
- All-natural homeopathic remedy that offers 20 herbs for cold and flu relief
- Safe for people of all ages
- Can improve immune system functions
- Also works as a great herbal supplement
- Does not stop colds that have already set in
Coricidin HBP Cough & Colds is touted to be the best medication for people with hypertension looking for cold and cough relief. This product does not contain decongestants, which is why it does not have the adverse effect of raising blood pressure. It is also a multi-symptom drug, providing temporary relief for a wide range of symptoms such as coughing, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose.
- A fast acting formula that does not contain a decongestant
- Blood pressure-friendly
- Offers good value for the price
- Has been known to contribute to substance abuse in unchecked and unsupervised teenagers
Who Needs Medicines for Cold
First things first: most medical professionals will advise rest as opposed to medication if you want to get over a cold. But if your symptoms are too severe to allow you to function normally, medication can help. Adults who do not want to miss work or other important events can particularly benefit from using cold medicines.
Those who do not want their symptoms to exacerbate will also do well to consider medication. Some symptoms, such as a sore throat, may escalate into a fever if it is not treated properly. Others can compromise the immune system to trigger the development of other issues, such as sensitivities.
What Are the Benefits of Medicines for Cold
The main benefit of medicines for cold is, naturally, their ability to alleviate symptoms. There are many types of these products and each category is formulated to target a specific symptom. Decongestants, for instance, limit mucus build-up inside our noses, while antihistamines reduce the production of mucus. Other types of medication are aimed at other symptoms, such as headaches, the presence of a cough, and even sore throats.
Another benefit to enjoy from using medications is their ability to ease discomfort. It is not fun to have to blow your nose multiple times throughout the day or a cough every so often while you’re at work. Since taking medication can ease the severity of symptoms, it also accords you with more comfort. In many cases, the meds can make you forget you even have colds.
Finally, medicines for colds can help you power throughout the day, which is important if you have a busy schedule. Just remember that some may also have side effects, so it helps to choose the right type of medicine that targets the specific symptom that you want to keep to a minimum without impairing functionality.
What Are Medicines for Cold
Cold medicines, as their name denotes, are formulated to treat the symptoms of cold, even though they cannot cure the condition itself. These contain ingredients such as dextromethorphan, chlorpheniramine, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and diphenhydramine.
There are plenty of types of these medicines, such as decongestants, analgesics, and antihistamines. They also come in various forms, such as pills, syrups, and nasal sprays. Additionally, there are medications that aim to treat the symptoms that happen alongside the usual symptoms, such as a cough, headaches, and sore throats. You will also find combination medicines that treat more than one symptom.
Many cold medicines are available over-the-counter, while others require a prescription from a doctor. On top of these, there are natural remedies such as zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea.
What Safety Issues Should You Be Aware of for Using Medicines for Cold
Medicines for cold carry quite a list of side effects, which is why taking them should be done with caution. This is particularly important since a study in 2016 found that about 65 percent of patients do not spend enough time thinking about the OTC drugs that they take. 58% do not factor in existing conditions into their selection, and 73% of people aged 60 and above do not consider whether the drug they are about to purchase is suitable for their age. And a willful lack of information is one of the most dangerous things when it comes to mitigating potential side effects from medications.
Acetaminophen, for instance, is currently the leading cause of liver failure in the United States, and it typically effects from an unintentional overdose. This ingredient is found in many medicines for cold, as well as in combination products. If you’re taking it, make sure that you don’t ingest more than the recommended dose, which is about 4000 mg per day. If you’re taking more than one medication for your cold, also make sure that you check how much acetaminophen is on every drug and don’t go beyond the safe amount.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are associated with trigger asthma in up to 20 percent of patients with asthma. They can also cause an upset stomach, which is why they should be avoided by people who have acid reflux or gastric ulcers, people taking medication that affects their tummies, and people who are already taking another form of NSAID for rheumatoid arthritis, blood clots, and other conditions.
Decongestants, for their part, are also known for raising blood pressure, as well as producing jitters. These are due to the way that the body metabolizes the ingredient. If they are taken too frequently for too long, they also lose their effectiveness. Using nasal sprays for longer than 5 days can reportedly lead to more congestion.
Antihistamines also cause drowsiness, especially if they are used alongside other over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If used with opioid pain relievers, antihistamines can worsen their effects. In addition, they can affect varying age groups differently. Children and the elderly may both experience restlessness after taking these medicines, and older people can experience dizziness and confusion. These two effects may lead to falls and other dangerous events. If you have heart rhythm problems, you should also be particularly careful as these drugs can give rise to arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats. Finally, antihistamines can worsen glaucoma and trigger retention of urine in older men.
If you’re using OTC cold medications with dextromethorphan, you may experience mild sedation.
Even natural forms of treatment for cold warrant some caution, as some of them can also produce unpleasant side effects. Zinc, for example, can cause mouth irritation and upset stomachs. Another study has also found that it can generate nausea in patients and may even harm the immune system. Nasal products that contain zinc are also best avoided, as they have reportedly caused permanent damage to some people’s sense of smell.
Finally, using more than one type of cold medicine should be avoided, if possible. Do not take more than one type of the same type of medicine, and do not use more than one medication for one symptom.
A Brief History of Using Medicines for Cold
The use of treatments for colds has spanned the entirety of human history, ever since the condition first manifested. In the old days, treatments revolved around warm drinks and soups, such as the ma huang of the Chinese. Containing pseudoephedrine, a decongestant used today, the plant was brewed into a tea to treat colds for at least 3000 years. Chicken soup was also widely regarded to be important in eliminating the sniffles, which was not entirely wrong, as modern science has found that chicken soup contains cysteine, an amino acid with decongestant properties.
Of course, not all treatments were founded in science, but many of the treatments of old were, in fact, accidental to the relief of the condition for those who suffered. For example, the belief that sneezing will expel the soul from the body prompted people to cover their mouths while they had colds, which contained the spread of the virus.
It was Benjamin Franklin who discovered that cold is transmitted through the air and today, prevention strategies and methods are centered on this fact.
Types of Medicines for Cold
On to the modern options that we can choose from to relieve symptoms of colds: there are many types. They are:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs contain ingredients that reduce inflammation and relieve fevers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. As thus, they are ideal for colds that feature symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, sore throats, and fevers. They are typically found in combination cold medications.
Acetaminophen works like NSAIDs, with the added benefit that it is gentler on the stomach than NSAIDs. It is also found in many medications for colds, but it should be taken at the recommended doses as it is associated with a host of serious side effects such as liver failure.
Antihistamines target cold symptoms that are associated with allergens, such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes. They provide relief by blocking the release of histamine, through active ingredients such as diphenhydramine, brompheniramine, doxylamine, chlorpheniramine, loratadine, and clemastine. They may cause drowsiness, although some types of antihistamines have less sedating effects, they are nevertheless commonly found in afternoon or nighttime formulations of cold medicines. As cold medicines, they are not very effective at treating other symptoms.
Decongestants help narrow blood vessels in the lining of the nose to shrink swollen tissues and consequently bring relief to clogged noses. Additionally, they can dry up post nasal drip. They contain oxymetazoline nasal, phenylephrine nasal, or phenylephrine oral, pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine; the first three are topical decongestants, while the last two can be taken orally. Decongestants also exist in nasal sprays.
Nasal sprays exist in three main forms: decongestants, saline solutions, and steroid nasal sprays. Decongestant nasal sprays unclog noses, but they should not be used for more than 3 days as they can worsen symptoms. Saline or saltwater solutions, on the other hand, effectively loosen up mucus. Since they do not have medication, they can be used anytime, for as long as you like. Steroid nasal sprays, on the other hand, are ideal for relieving allergy symptoms associated with colds. They are also used to unclog noses after a sinus infection.
In many cases, a cold also leads to a cough, and for that, you can choose from expectorants and cough suppressants. Expectorants work on trapped mucus in the lungs so that it can be coughed out, and the most common of their active ingredient is guaifenesin. Cough suppressants or antitussives, on the other hand, contain dextromethorphan or codeine to suppress coughing. Products with codeine typically require a prescription or a signature at the pharmacy, as this ingredient is a narcotic.
There is also zinc. Zinc is a natural remedy that is believed to be effective in relieving sore throats that come with colds. They are typically available in lozenges.
Finally, pain relievers are available for those whose colds lead to headaches and muscle aches. Their active ingredients typically include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.
Who Shouldn’t Use Medicines for Cold
Some medications for colds can lead to serious complications for some people. Products that contain dextromethorphan should not be given to children below 4 years old. Children above 4 years old until 6 years of age should only take them under the supervision of a pediatrician, as well.
Nasal sprays with decongestants are also not recommended for children aged 7 and below, as well as people who have diabetes, high blood, and a heart condition. In addition, they are best avoided by those who have thyroid issues, and urinary issues due to an enlarged prostate. If you have problems sleeping, you should talk to your doctor before using a nasal spray with decongestant; such a product can interfere with sleep, raise blood pressure, and increase your pulse rate. Steroid nasal sprays, for their part, may lead to nosebleeds; some have also been known to permanently change the sense of smell of some people.
Finally, do not take antihistamines that contain acetaminophen as these two may promote serious liver damage when taken together. Those who are on monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) should also steer clear of a cough and cold medicines without first consulting their doctors.
How To Manage the Use of Medicines for Cold
The advantages that the best medicines for colds can provide can be best harnessed if they are used according to the promise of their formulation. To do that, consider these tips.
Read the Product Information Carefully
If you’re buying your meds over-the-counter, one of the most important things that you can do is to know exactly what it is that you are about to take. There are specific ingredients that you should look for if you want to treat your specific symptoms effectively. Similarly, there are ingredients that you should avoid, if you are dealing with other medical conditions, already taking other medications and other conditions.
Read the drug fact sheet especially if you are administering cold meds to children. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with a healthcare professional to ensure safety before you proceed.
Avoid Multi-Symptom Formulas
It may be tempting at times to pop more than one pill if you’re dealing with the sniffles, a headache, and a sore throat. However, experts advise that it is best to avoid multi-combination formulations to deal with colds. The subsequent side effects may not only be uncomfortable, in some cases, they can be dangerous.
Do Not Overdose
Take your medications exactly as they are prescribed, or as their drug fact sheet states. Overdose from cold drugs can result in serious complications, especially for children and the elderly.
The number of options available to us as medicines for colds reminds us that we should not have to suffer through the condition when it hits. If you especially do not want to be hampered by the sniffles and everything that accompanies it, you know that you can rely on any of the products we have listed above for relief. You can even get multi-symptom relief from one product.
With that said, it is important to remember that cold medicines come with rather significant side effects. For certain people, they can produce lethal and permanently damaging side effects. To make sure that you are properly protected from any of these adverse reactions, it pays to spend time looking at product information carefully and completely before popping anything into your mouth. Similarly, you should consult a doctor if you are not sure whether a certain drug is right for you.
At the same time, every one of us should be more proactive in boosting our immune system and taking better care of ourselves so that colds don’t get to wreak as much havoc as they can in our life. Where this is concerned, the basics are still the most essential: drink enough water, get enough sleep, eat the right types of food, rest when you need to, and manage your stress levels. At the end of the day, keeping a cold at bay is still better than trying to treat it.