Over-the counter medications are the mainstay of treatment for coughs and colds. Colds are caused by viruses that do not respond to antibiotics. They are self limiting meaning they will go away in 7-10 days in most cases. Over-the-counter medications can help to make you feel better while your body fights the infection. There are many medications available and the one you use will depend on the symptoms you are experiencing.
There are some non-medication things that can be done to help with coughs and colds. Rest is very important. When you have a cough and cold your body is spending a great deal of energy fighting the infection. This leaves less energy for your normal routine. Try to rest and decrease your activities when you have a cough and cold. This will not only help you get better more quickly, it will also help you feel better along the way. Hydration is also important. Push fluids, drink more water than usual as your body needs the fluids to help it fight the infection. Warm fluids sch as tea or soup can also help loosen up the mucous and help you feel better.
Coughs are primarily treated with cough medications such as Robitussin and Mucinex. It is important to read the label and not use more than the recommended dose. Cough syrups help break up the mucous in the respiratory tree making it easier to clear the phlegm and therefore decreasing the need to cough.
Congestion is a typical symptom when you have a cold. Decongestants such as Sudafed help decrease the mucous production as well as decrease the inflammation of the mucosa as well. this will go a long way to decreasing the symptoms of congestion. Decongestants tend to make it difficult to sleep so you may not want to take them at night. Afrin nasal spray will also clear up the congestion in the nasal cavity. Be careful not to take more than the recommended dose or use it for a prolonged period of time. Afrin can cause irritation of the nasal mucosa giving a rebound phenomena. This means that if taken for too long the congestion may get worse when you try to stop it.
Colds also tend to cause body aches, coughing can cause soreness in the chest. Tylenol and ibuprofen are good choices for relieving these discomforts. These medications also help reduce fever and decrease inflammation.
Vitamin C and zinc have been shown to bolster the immune system. Taking these supplements can help your body fight the virus infections that cause the cough and cold. This can reduce the length and severity of the symptoms.
There are many products that have a mixture of these medications in them. Dayquil and Nightquil are examples. These formulations can be a convenient way to relieve the symptoms of coughs and colds. The advantage is that you only have to use one product to get the benefit of several different medications. The disadvantage is that there may be medications in these combinations that treat symptoms you do not have. This could expose you to side effects from medications that are offering no advantage.