How to treat the common cold

In this Article

  • Remedies for the Common Cold
  • Cold Remedies for Children
  • When to See a Doctor

Sneezing, coughing, and constantly blowing your nose. If you’ve ever caught a cold, these symptoms may sound familiar. There are more than 200 known viruses that can infect your nose and throat. The most common is Rhinovirus, which causes 10% to 40% of colds.

The cold season typically starts in September and lasts through May. The average adult catches two to four colds a year, while children may experience as many as eight infections in one season.В

Colds are highly contagious and are spread through droplets of fluid that contain the virus. People can pick up the virus if they’re around an infected person or if the person who is infected has touched a common surface with unwashed hands.

Symptoms usually start to appear within one to three days after you’ve been exposed. When you get sick, you may experience one or all of the following:

  • Stuffy or runny nose with yellow or green mucus
  • Excessive sneezing
  • CongestionВ
  • Cough
  • Scratchy throat
  • Headache and body aches
  • Fever

It can take up to two weeks for cold symptoms to disappear. More vulnerable populations—like children, older adults, and those who are immunocompromised (weakened immune systems due to illness or other conditions)—may be sick for weeks or even months.В

Remedies for the Common Cold

The cold is a virus, and there isn’t one medication or treatment that can cure it. However, certain remedies may ease symptoms and help you heal faster:В

Drink tea, water, bone broth, and warm water with lemon to keep your body hydrated and prevent excess congestion.В

Take Time to Rest

Do you like to run around and accomplish many things in a day? If you have a cold, stop! Your body needs to rest. Read a book, watch movies, or close your eyes and drift into dreamland.В

Manage a Scratchy Throat

Chewing on ice chips, sucking on throat lozenges or sprays, and eating a piece of hard candy may soothe a scratchy throat.

A salt-water gargle helps too. Combine 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt with an 8-ounce glass of warm water, gargle, then spit. Repeat.В

Relieve a Stuffy Nose

Saline nasal rinses, sprays, and nasal drops can loosen mucus and make it easier to breathe.В

Sip Some Soup

The phrase “chicken soup for the soul” may be true! Drinking warm liquids, like soup, tea, or warm juice, increases mucus flow in the body, reducing congestion. В

Turn on the Humidifier

Vaporizers and humidifiers add moisture into the surrounding air, helping relieve chest and sinus congestion. Change the water and clean the unit every day.В

Try An Over-the-Counter (OTC) Cold Medication

OTC cold medications can relieve a runny nose, ease congestion, and soothe a scratchy throat. However, some medicines contain multiple ingredients, so it’s important to read the labels to make sure you aren’t taking too much.В

Cold Remedies for Children

The seven remedies in the previous section are good for people of any age to follow. However, children are still growing, and some cold treatments require careful consideration:

Over The Counter (OTC) Pain Relievers

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help reduce common symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, and fever. Read the label on the bottle or package to determine the recommended amount for your child’s age and weight.В

Avoid giving aspirin to children or teenagers. It’s linked to a rare condition called Reye ’ s Syndrome that causes brain and liver damage and can lead to death.В

OTC Antihistamines or Decongestants

Medical experts suggest only giving OTC cold medication to children age six and older. Some decongestants can cause irregular heartbeat, irritability, and even hallucinations in young children, toddlers, and infants.В

When to See a Doctor

Each year, more people visit the doctor for the common cold than any other illness. Medical experts suggest treating your symptoms at home first. However, call your doctor if you start to experience more severe symptoms, including:В

  • Trouble breathing
  • Unexplained chest or abdominal pain that appears suddenly
  • DizzinessВ
  • Sudden onset of vomiting that doesn’t go awayВ
  • Symptoms that last longer than seven daysВ

Children’s immune systems are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to colds and other infections. It’s important to monitor their symptoms closely and call the doctor if your child:В

  • Develops a cold and is less than 3 months old
  • Has a “barking” or severe cough
  • Complains of ear painВ
  • Struggles to breathe or breathes quickly
  • Has symptoms that last longer than 3 weeksВ
  • Doesn’t want to eat and seems listless or extremely tired
  • Has trouble urinating

It’s important to take care of your health when you’re sick. Doing too much too soon can prevent your body from healing and may even make a cold last longer. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and remember to wash your hands to prevent spreading the virus to others.В

Show Sources

American Lung Association: “Facts About the Common Cold.”В

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Common Colds: Protect Yourself.”

KidsHealthВ® From Nemours: “Colds.”В

Mayo Clinic: “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt.”В

MedlinePlus: “How to treat the common cold.”В

In this Article

What Are Treatments for the Common Cold?

Since there is no cure for the common cold, treatment has two goals: to make you feel better and to help you fight off the virus.

Lots of rest is the key treating a cold. You may find you need 12 hours of sleep each night, so don’t set that alarm. You’ll be most comfortable in a warm, humid environment. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. This makes mucus flow more freely and helps with congestion.

No specific treatment exists for the virus that is causing your cold, but in treating the symptoms you can find relief. For aches and pains accompanied by a fever of 100.5 degrees or higher, give acetaminophen (Tylenol)В rather thanВ aspirin or naproxen (Naprosyn).В

If your throat is sore, gargle as often as you like with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup water).

Think twice before using heavily advertised over-the-counter cold and flu medications, which likely contain drugs for symptoms you don’t have and therefore may result in needless overtreatment. The FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold drugs should not be given to children under age 4.

Over-the-counter decongestants containing pseudoephedrine can help dry and clear nasal passages, but only temporarily. Decongestant nasal sprays like oxymetazoline (Afrin) can help, too, but if they’re used for more than three to five days, they may cause a “rebound” effect. This means more mucus and worse congestion. Pseudoephedrine may increase blood pressure and heart rate. Do not take it without first checking with a doctor if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, prostate problems, diabetes, or thyroid problems.

Over-the-counter decongestants containing phenylpropanolamine have been pulled voluntarily from the shelves because they increase the risk of stroke. If you have a drug containing this ingredient, also called PPA, throw it away.

Over-the-counter cough suppressants, such as those containing dextromethorphan, can be helpful if your cough is so severe that it interferes with sleeping or talking. Otherwise, allow yourself to cough as you need to (always covering your mouth as you do), because coughing removes mucus and germs from your throat and lungs.

Antihistamines seem to help some people, but their effect during colds remains controversial.

Good nutrition is essential for resisting and recovering from a cold. Eat a balanced diet. Take supplements as needed to ensure you are receiving the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A, the vitamin B complex (vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, folic acid), and vitamin C, as well as the minerals zinc and copper. Both vitamin C and zinc are essential for production of infection-fighting neutrophils; without adequate levels, you’re an easy mark for all types of infections. Evidence shows zinc may shorten the duration of a cold, especially in adults if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Avoid zinc nasal spray as it may lead to permanent loss of smell.

After much research, vitamin C is believed to have a small effect in preventing colds, and no benefit in treating a cold. There have been several large studies in adults and in children, but the results have been inconclusive. Taking a lot of vitamin C over a long period of time can be harmful.

Chicken soup has been heralded as a cold therapy since the 12th century. Recent scientific evidence shows mild support for the notion that chicken soup reduces cold symptoms, especially congestion.

Asian healing treatments often use hot soups to treat upper respiratory infections, making use of red pepper, lemongrass, and ginger, in particular. Any food spicy enough to make your eyes water will have the same effect on your nose, promoting drainage. If you feel like eating, a hot, spicy soup may help ease your cold symptoms.

To ease cold symptoms, the essential oils of aromatherapy may be rubbed on the body, inhaled with steam, diffused into the air, or poured on a cloth to be used as a compress. Try rubbing diluted eucalyptus oil on the chest as a decongestant, or inhale eucalyptus or peppermint oil to clear stuffiness. Adding lavender, cedar, or lemon to steam may also soothe nasal passages. Inhaling menthol not only provides relief from nasal congestion, but might help inhibit infection as well. Rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, and tea tree oils can also provide relief from symptoms of a cold. Use caution if you have asthma, since aromatherapy can trigger an attack.

Many Americans turn to herbal remedies to ease cold symptoms. Some research supports the use of the Chinese herbal remedies yin chao and gan mao ling. Rather than self-prescribe, it’s best to consult an expert practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Echinacea may help strengthen the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells, but there is little evidence that it can prevent colds in particular. Several studies show adults using echinacea at the first sign of a cold suffered shorter and less severe illness. Because herbs are so poorly regulated and labeled in the U.S., however, it’s difficult to know if the product you’re using contains the right species and active ingredient. If you decide to try echinacea, take small doses for no more than eight weeks, since prolonged use may suppress your immune system.

Little research exists to support the use of other herbs, such as astragalus, eyebright, elder flower, garlic, ginseng, goldenseal, or yarrow.

Show Sources

Singh, M. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011.В

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Common Cold.”В

Palo Alto Medical Foundation:В “The Common Cold.”В

University of Virginia Health System: “Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold).”В

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu.”В

Medline Plus: “Common Cold.”В

FDA: “Colds and Flu: Time only Sure Cure.”В

American Lung Association: “A Survival Guide for Preventing and Treating Influenza and the Common Cold.”

Change Your Life!


The common cold is a respiratory infection that can cause fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. It’s most commonly caused by the E. coli or rhinovirus infections, but it can also arise from other causes. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. The good news is that there are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold. However, before you can start trying them, you need to know what causes the cold and how to diagnose it.

What is the common cold?

The common cold is a respiratory infection that can cause fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. It’s most commonly caused by the E. coli or rhinovirus infections, but it can also arise from other causes. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. The good news is that there are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold. However, before you can start trying them, you need to know what causes the cold and how to diagnose it.

How can the common cold be caused?

The common cold is caused by a number of different infections. The most common infection is the E. coli or rhinovirus infections. These infections can cause fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Other infections that can cause the common cold include the common cold sore, the common cold virus, and the Bronchitis virus.

Treatments for the common cold?

There are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold. Some of these treatments include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and homeopathic remedies. You can also call a doctor to get started on a treatment plan.

Some causes of the common cold?

The common cold is a respiratory infection that can cause fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. It’s most commonly caused by the E. coli or rhinovirus infections, but it can also arise from other causes. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. The good news is that there are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold. However, before you can start trying them, you need to know what causes the cold and how to diagnose it.

1) The common cold is caused by a respiratory infection.

2) The common cold is most commonly caused by the E. coli or rhinovirus infections.

3) There are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold, but before you can start trying them, you need to know what causes the cold and how to diagnose it.

How to diagnose and treat the common cold?

To diagnose the common cold, you’ll need to check for fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. If any of these symptoms are present, you should get help as soon as possible. The good news is that there are a number of treatments available to treat the common cold. However, before you can start trying them, you need to know what causes the cold and how to diagnose it.

While there is no fast cure for the common cold, our top tips could help ease symptoms naturally and may even shorten the duration of your cold.

Interested in trying our FREE 7-day healthy diet plan? Click here and choose between our meat eaters, vegetarian or vegan meal plans.

So you’ve succumbed to a cold! Your nose is running, your throat is sore and you’ve a hacking cough – what’s to be done? Sadly, there’s no simple cure for the common cold, but read on for some home remedies and top tips that might help shorten or ease your suffering.

Eat something light

How to treat the common cold

It’s a long-held belief that if you ‘feed a cold, starve a fever’ you’ll shorten the duration of your symptoms. Luckily, there’s some truth to the claim that you should eat when you have a cold – when we eat we encourage the production of a certain type of immune cell (T helper 1) that helps fight viral infections, so it’s a useful strategy for treating the cold virus. However, it’s hard to know what to eat if you’ve lost your appetite or if you have an upset stomach. Often it’s best to stick to light meals such as soups or scrambled eggs to avoid feeling nauseous or uncomfortable.

Try these comforting, light dishes:

Boost zinc levels

How to treat the common cold

Studies suggest that the mineral zinc helps reduce the length and severity of a cold. However, to benefit from its effect you would need to take a zinc supplement as soon as you feel a cold coming on – at least within a day of the symptoms starting. Always see your GP before taking any food supplements. Eating zinc-rich foods may be an effective way of keeping your defences primed – cacao powder and cashews are good sources of zinc as are other nuts, seeds and beans. Studies have suggested that combining zinc with vitamin C could provide even quicker symptom relief.

Try our zinc-rich recipe ideas:

Soothe with lemon, honey and ginger

How to treat the common cold

For those of us keen to keep our cold cures purely culinary, a honey and lemon hot drink or ginger tea is a comforting classic. Thanks to its syrupy qualities, honey is a great throat soother. Studies investigating respiratory infections in children, with symptoms ranging from a hacking cough and runny nose to fever, found that a single night-time dose of honey can have a small, but effective influence on their cough and help them sleep better. However, honey shouldn’t be given to children younger than 12 months.

Lemon is rich in vitamin C and protective bioflavonoids – these are particularly prevalent in its skin, so don’t waste the zest. Lemon juice also has anti-bacterial properties, although there are currently limited studies to support its use in the treatment of colds. Ginger, while also tasting delicious, has some interesting health benefits and has been used in traditional medicine throughout history. Active compounds, including gingerols, have meant that ginger has been used to soothe a wide array of ailments from nausea to the common cold, fever and sore throats.

Get plenty of rest

How to treat the common cold

We all know getting adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental health, but there’s also a close link between the immune system response and quality of sleep. Studies have revealed that sleep and circadian rhythm (the natural sleep/wake cycle) have a strong regulatory effect on the immune system, which of course may be a problem if you’re one of the many people involved in shift work. More studies are needed to explain exactly why, but it’s thought that shift workers have an increased risk of viral infections. Scientists are only beginning to fully understand the purpose of sleep and its underlying mechanisms, but lack of sleep is associated with many illnesses, including infection.

If you’re unwell, sleep can be difficult, so make sure that you have a comfortable, dark bedroom and try not to consume too much caffeine (present in many over-the-counter cold remedies) to help you sleep. Read more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Drink lots of liquids

Drinking plenty of fluids is common advice to treat the common cold for those suffering with a viral infection. Although there’s limited evidence as to why this may be effective, it’s thought hydration levels may promote the action of immune cells.

Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods

How to treat the common cold

It’s long been known that keeping the gut healthy by eating foods that encourage beneficial bacteria is critical to staying fit and well. In fact more than 60 per cent of our immune defences lie along the mucosal lining of our gut, so keeping it in tip-top condition has to be a first line of defence. One small study showed that children who took a probiotic every day had fewer days off school and had reduced common cold symptoms. Other research suggests that probiotics may help reduce the duration of a cold (by up to two days) and make symptoms less severe. In order to see the benefits, you need to consume probiotic foods every day, so this is definitely a strategy for the longer term.

Include a variety of probiotic foods regularly in your diet:

Read more about probiotic foods and how to improve gut health, and learn about the health benefits of kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and fermented foods.

Should I take more vitamin C when I have a cold?

How to treat the common cold

Vitamin C has often been cited as a good precaution against catching the common cold. However, studies sugget that this advice is most relevant for people exposed to brief periods of intense physical stress such as marathon runners or those living in very cold environments. So unless you fall into one of these categories you’re unlikely to see more than a modest reduction in the duration of your symptoms.

Instead, eat a plentiful array of fruit and veg, including dark green, leafy veg like chard and spinach, peppers, broccoli, peas, kiwi fruit and citrus. Why not try these vitamin C rich suggestions:

If symptoms persist refer to the NHS for information on over-the-counter medications. If you are concerned about any symptoms or you are elderly, pregnant, suffering from a chronic health condition, or the patient is an infant or baby, refer to your local GP’s surgery for guidance.

Enjoyed this? Now read.

This article was reviewed on 6 November 2018 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.


A normal cold does not necessitate a visit to the doctor. However, you should contact your doctor if the symptoms intensify or don’t go away.

Most persons with a common cold may be identified based on their symptoms. Your doctor may request a chest X-ray or other tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms if they feel you have a bacterial infection or another ailment.


Although there is no one cure for the common cold, combining treatments may help to lessen the symptoms.

Pain relievers and nasal sprays are commonly used in over-the-counter cold treatments. Some are available on their own. These include the following:

  • Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen reduce headaches and fever.
  • Drugs that relieve stuffiness include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine .
  • Diphenhydramine and other antihistamines relieve sneezing, and a runny nose.
  • Dextromethorphan and codeine are cough suppressants.
  • Expectorants thin and loosen mucus. Guaifenesin and other expectorants are examples.
  • Afrin, Sinex, and Nasacort are decongestant nasal sprays that can help clear the nasal cavity.
  • Cough syrups are used to treat chronic coughs and sore throats.

Alternative Medicines

Alternative medicine has not been proven to be as helpful as the above ways in treating colds. But it does provide some relief for some patients. Zinc is most helpful when given within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Vitamin C and meals high in it (such as citrus fruits) are thought to help the immune system.

Lifestyle Changes and Selfcare

Keep mucus away from your airways. Pneumonia can be caused by excessive mucus. People who smoke, have allergies, or have long-term lung illness may increase mucus production. To help remove mucus from the airways:

  • Add moisture to the air using a cool-mist vaporiser or a steamy shower. Inhaling wet air thins mucus, allowing it to be coughed out.
  • Cough medicines and warm liquids might help to relieve your throat.
  • Exercises to assist in releasing congestion might be done if necessary. Certain postures might make it simpler to cough up mucus if you have a long-term lung illness. A respiratory therapist may be able to assist you.
  • Use vapour rubs containing oils like camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus. They are suitable for use on the neck and chest. They may aid in the relief of nocturnal symptoms, particularly in children.

BI Answers: Why don’t we have a cure for the common cold?

Modern science has eradicated smallpox, extended life expectancy, and made huge gains in battling some of the world’s deadliest diseases. So why can’t we knock out the humble cold?

The short answer is twofold. First, what we think of as a cold is actually caused by many different viruses. Even the most common among those, rhinovirus, has more than a hundred different strains. “Curing” a cold would actually mean eradicating a long list of respiratory viruses that happen to cause similar symptoms. Those symptoms, incidentally, are mostly just your immune system kicking into high gear to fight off an infection, something that can manifest as inflammation in the throat and congestion in the nose.

Second, while sniffling and coughing is no fun, a cold is pretty low down on the list of ailments that need curing. It can be a concern for infants, the elderly, or those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, but “for the majority of us, a common cold is more annoyance than threat,” says Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland.

Still, in 2002, researchers calculated that the annual cost of lost productivity because of colds is $25 billion. The National Institutes of Health estimates that people in the United States experience about one billion colds every year. What if we could make those all go away? We talked to a number of experts to get the full story on why we haven’t cured the common cold — and whether we ever will.

Why isn’t there a cold vaccine?

Each year, multiple strains of the flu are circulating. If we can vaccinate against the most common strains of the flu, it seems as if we should be able to do the same thing for colds. But it doesn’t quite work that way.

There are only about three strains of flu each season, while “there are usually 20-30 different types of rhinovirus circulating each season in one geographic area,” explains Yury A. Bochkov, an associate scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Only about 10% of those will show up again the next year. That means, Bochkov says, that public health officials “cannot predict the spectrum of rhinovirus types for an upcoming cold season.”

Plus, even if you could, Thomas Smith of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston says, “somehow stuff 100 different strains into one shot,” that would take care of only the most common cold-causing virus.

More than 200 viruses can cause what a sick person would recognize as a cold, including “some strains of influenza virus, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, enteroviruses, [and] respiratory syncytial virus,” Bochkov says. A rhinovirus vaccine would do nothing to protect against those.

Why isn’t there a cold cure, or even a highly effective treatment?

The main reason, Mackay says, is that the common cold is usually “a short-lived and relatively mild illness.”

But trying to develop drugs to treat rhinovirus also has some particular challenges. Smith, who worked on such research in his lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, tells us that some of the approaches they were testing “really did work,” at least in the lab. Still, “while these compounds were pretty good at hitting a number of different strains at once, there were still a few outlier strains.”

That’s the tricky thing about rhinoviruses, Bochkov says: “It is difficult to find an antiviral equally efficient against 160 rhinoviruses.”

Furthermore, colds are not usually life-threatening, so the Food and Drug Administration would have a very low threshold for the kind of side effects that would be considered worth it. “It really had to be nearly as safe as water for approval for the general public,” Smith says. Few drugs are.

The challenges did not stop there. “Only humans show symptoms of [rhinovirus] infection,” Smith says, making it nearly impossible to do any testing between petri dishes and human trials. Even then, researchers would first have to find a rhinovirus that test subjects had not already been exposed to — a difficult task with so many strains circulating every year.

If anyone is able to find an effective treatment, however, those efforts might pay off. “There would be a huge market among wealthy nations who have overcome some of the more serious infectious diseases and now have moved their attention to removing the annoyance of the common cold,” Mackay says.

Is any progress being made?

Numerous researchers are working on something called broad-spectrum antivirals, which would target a wide variety of viruses. While much of this research is still in very early phases, it may offer the best hope for an eventual cold cure.

Todd Rider, formerly a senior staff scientist at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and now at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, developed one such compound, called DRACO. It generated a lot of media buzz when it was first announced in 2011.

DRACO, Rider tells us, “is designed to treat or prevent infections by a broad spectrum of viruses, just as existing antibiotics can treat or prevent infections by a broad spectrum of bacteria.”

The compound has so far been effective against 15 different viruses in cells and in mice. It works by entering all cells and then destroying those in which it detects a viral infection. “For the common cold in particular, DRACO was shown in human cells to be effective against all four rhinovirus strains tested,” Rider says, “and to completely eliminate rhinoviruses without harming uninfected cells.”

While DRACO and other related research, like that led by Leo James at Cambridge University’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, seem very promising, much more testing is needed to see whether this approach will be effective and safe in humans. If DRACO lives up to its initial promise and continued testing goes well — neither of which is a certainty — Rider expects that it could be used in humans “within a decade or perhaps sooner.”

What can you do in the meantime?

Wash your hands. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid sick people whenever possible. Try your luck with over-the-counter remedies.

There’s some evidence that old-fashioned tips like gargling salt water and swallowing honey can ease cold symptoms, but most oft-touted curatives — like megadoses of vitamin C — show little benefit when tested.

Worst-case scenario, Smith notes, there’s always the extreme option: “Hermits who never see fellow human beings never get the common cold.”

The INSIDER Summary:

  • We talked to a doctor about the best ways to treat a common cold.
  • Because a cold is a virus it has to run its course, but there are things you can do to relieve symptoms.
  • Examples include staying hydrated and warm, resting, gargling with salt water, drinking ginger tea, using saline drops or a humidifier, and taking over-the-counter medications.

A cold may not be a serious illness, but it can put you out of commission for at least a day or two.

Unfortunately, because a cold is a virus, the only real “cure” for it is to let it run its course and let your body heal itself.

However, there are a few things you can do to help make yourself more comfortable along the way.

We spoke with Dr. David Shih, chief medical officer at CityMD, to find out how to ease your cough, congestion, and other common cold symptoms.

Stay hydrated.

Dr. Shih says this is the most important thing you can do to help your body heal when you’re sick. Even when you’re healthy, staying hydrated is vital for many of your body’s key functions. So when you’re sick, you should be even more conscientious of drinking fluids; dehydration will only worsen your symptoms.

Dr. Shih says there’s no one liquid in particular that you should be drinking. Water is of course the most basic way to hydrate yourself, but many people prefer warm liquids like ginger tea when they’re sick (plus, warm fluids can help with decongestion). He also suggests adding honey or lemon to drinks, both of which can help with cold symptoms.

Drink what you like best, just make sure you’re drinking lots of it.

Avoid alcohol.

Since alcohol dehydrates you, drinking it won’t do your body any favors when it comes to healing your cold. Plus, many medicines like cough syrup should not be mixed with alcohol.

Rest and stay warm.

In order to heal itself, your body needs to direct most of its energy towards your immune system, which is what will fight off your sickness. If you’re cold, energy that should be going to your immune system will instead be going towards generating heat in order to keep your body warm.

The same goes for exercising or even just going to work. Much of what you do on a daily basis when you’re healthy requires energy. When you’re sick, you should be staying in bed in order to allow your body to conserve almost all of its energy for your immune system.

Soothe a sore throat by gargling with salt water.

Dr. Shih says that salt water acts as a “natural mouthwash” and helps cleanse your throat by flushing out bacteria . It can also help relieve pain and can reduce swelling.

Reduce congestion with saline drops or a humidifier.

According to Dr. Shih, when you’re congested because of a cold your mucus is thicker than usual. Using a humidifier — which adds moisture into the air around you — will help your breathing by allowing air to pass through your nose more easily.

If you’re severely congested, however, Dr. Shih recommends using saline drops in your nose. This is a much more direct way of clearing up your nasal passages.

Use over-the-counter medications to help relieve your symptoms.

This may seem like an obvious one, but you don’t only have to rely on at-home remedies to treat your cold. Your local drugstore will have plenty of over-the-counter options that can help ease your cold symptoms. Dr. Shih recommends acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

If you’re experiencing multiple symptoms all at once, like cough, fever, and congestion, try something like DayQuil or NyQuil, or TheraFlu. Dr. Shih says that the particular brand of medicine doesn’t matter, what’s most important is that the medicine treats the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

People often talk about colds and flu (influenza) together, but it’s important to realise colds and flu are different illnesses caused by different viruses. Find out how you can help avoid catching them here, how to treat a cold or the flu, and special information on being ill during pregnancy or looking after babies and children with a cold or flu.

Get a flu shot

It is important to get the flu vaccination each year to continue to be protected, since it wears off after 3 to 4 months.

Colds and flu symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the colds and flu Symptom Checker if you’re not sure what to do.

How to treat the common cold


Adults can experience the common cold between 2 and 4 times a year, and kids can get up to 10 colds a year. Here’s how to prevent and treat colds.

Read more about colds.

The flu

Learn all about influenza — a viral infection affecting the nose, throat and sometimes lungs — including its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Read more about flu.

Is it a cold or the flu?

Can’t tell if you have a cold or the flu? This infographic helps you compare cold and flu symptoms, and debunks some common myths.

Read more about the difference between a cold and the flu.

How to treat the common cold

The flu versus COVID-19

Although different viruses cause flus and COVID-19, the diseases have some similar symptoms. Here’s how to know if you have COVID-19, the flu or both.

Read more about the flu versus COVID-19

How to treat the common cold

Flu vaccine FAQs

Do you want to know more about the flu vaccine? Here are answers to some common questions, such as, ‘I have an egg allergy; can I still have the flu shot?’

Read more about the flu vaccine.

10 tips to fight the flu

There are many things you can do to help protect yourself from the flu. This infographic takes you through the top 10.

Read more about fighting the flu.

How to treat the common cold

Colds and flu medication

There are many over-the-counter medicines that might relieve cold and flu symptoms, including paracetamol, ibuprofen and nasal decongestants.

Read more Colds and flu medication

How to treat the common cold

Hand washing

Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illnesses such as the flu, common cold and COVID-19.

Read more about washing your hands.

How to treat the common cold

Colds and flu during pregnancy

If you are considering pregnancy or are already pregnant, it’s highly recommended that you have a flu vaccination to help protect you and your baby.

Read more about colds and flu during pregnancy.

How to treat the common cold

Coughs and colds in children

Most coughs and colds in children are caused by viruses. Find out how to treat your child and to help prevent them from developing and spreading a cold.

Read more about coughs and colds in children.

How to treat the common cold


A normal temperature is around 36-37°C; a fever is a temperature of 38°C or higher. Here’s how to treat a high temperature, which is often a symptom of an infection.

Read more about fever.

How to treat the common cold

Fever in children

Fevers are quite common in young children and are usually mild. Sometimes the causes of a fever will require urgent attention, but in most cases they can be managed at home.

Read more about fever and high temperatures in children.

How to treat the common cold

School exclusion

If your child is sick they may need to stay home from school to prevent spreading their illness to others. Here’s a list of school exclusion periods for the flu, gastro, chickenpox and more.

Read more about school exclusion.

How to treat the common cold

Flu trends in Australia

Healthdirect Australia collects data based on flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline. This information is used to calculate flu trends.

Read more about flu trends in Australia.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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How to treat the common cold Dr Shruti Ghatalia

What do you do when your child catches a cold? From causes and treatment to prevention tips, this article focuses on how you can relieve your child of her runny nose and itchy throat.

How to treat the common cold

The Father of Modern Medicine, Sir William Osler had said, “The only way to treat the common cold is with contempt”. This statement holds true even today!

Common cold is the most frequently occurring infectious disease in humans. A child may get 5 to 8 episodes of cold per year till the age of 5 years. Here are some FAQs on common cold.

What causes common cold?

More than 200 types of human rhinoviruses are responsible for over 50% of colds. The other commonly found cold-causing viruses are the respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, etc.

These viruses typically spread by hand-to-hand or surface-to-hand transmission. They also spread when a person inhales the virus emitted by someone who sneezes or coughs in his vicinity. Children going to playgroups or day-care centres are more vulnerable.

What are the symptoms of common cold?

Common cold is an acute viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The predominant symptoms of cold are sore throat, runny nose and nose block.

A few children may complain of headache, hoarseness of voice, body ache, irritability, difficulty in sleeping and reduced appetite when they have cold. Fever is uncommon in 3-year-olds with common cold.

What are the causes of dry cough?

Two-thirds of the patients may develop dry irritating cough once the nasal symptoms appear. Often, this is due to irritation caused by mucus accumulating in the throat or dripping from the back of your nose (post nasal drip). Children may have bouts of cough immediately after sleeping. The child can continue to cough for a week or two after the other symptoms of cold have abated.

What are the complications caused by common cold?

Occasionally, cold can lead to complications like ear infections, sinusitis and exacerbation of asthma.

When should you consult a doctor?

Common cold symptoms generally last for a week. If they persist or don’t follow the usual pattern, it’s imperative to visit your doctor to rule out other diseases which show similar symptoms-bacterial infections, allergic rhinitis, foreign body, rhinitis medicamentosa, etc.

How to treat common cold in your child?

There is no magical cure for cold! However, the following measures will make your child comfortable.

1) Rest: When your body’s immune system battles the virus, your child becomes tired. She needs to rest for more than 12 hours a day.

2) Adequate oral hydration: This helps to thin the secretions, soothes respiratory mucosa and prevents dehydration. Give your child plenty of warm liquids – soup, water, milk, kanji, clear broth, etc. A child with reduced appetite may not want to eat much but will be ready to sip on hot liquids.

Lukewarm water is also a good cough suppressant.

When your child has caught a cold and is struggling to eat, try to give her some warm soup to make her feel better. The following ClipBook has some healthy soups recipes you can try.

3) Saline nasal drops and spray: They help to remove secretions and reduce discomfort. Don’t use medicated drops. They may cause the congestion to recur if used for more than 5 days.

4) Humidified air: It helps to make nasal secretions loose. You may use cool humidifiers or expose your child to bathroom steam if she is comfortable with that.

5) Blowing the nose the right way: Teach your child never to sniff the secretions back into the nose. Close one nostril with your finger and ask her to gently blow out the secretions from the other nostril.

6) Eucalyptus or menthol oil: A drop or two on their pillow or shirt may clear nasal congestion and improve breathing.

7) Honey and lemon mixture: It will help soothe the throat. Give your child one spoonful 2-3 times a day to reduce cough.

8) Cough: Some children may get virus-induced reactive airway disease which causes wheezing. They may need bronchodilators.

Cold leads to wheezing in some children. Want to know how to deal with your child when she has a wheezing attack? Read the following article.

9) Paracetamol: It is used to relieve the symptoms of fever such as sore throat and body ache. Avoid using Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Nimesulide.

10) Adequate nutrition: It is very important to give your child a nutritious diet when she is sick as well as when she’s recovering from cold. A diet rich in vitamins and zinc will help. Give plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Let her eat anything she likes – she’s more likely to accept favourite foods during an illness since her appetite is reduced. Don’t force feed your child.

A child with low immunity catches cold often and struggles with the recovery process. Here’s how you can build her immunity.

11) Cough and cold syrups: Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies are not advised for a 3-year-old child. Some medicines have grave side effects while others are useless. First-generation antihistamines may reduce runny nose symptoms but cause sedation or paradoxical hyperactivity. Use medicines only when necessary, after consulting your doctor.

12) Avoid antibiotics: They don’t act on viruses and cause unnecessary side effects. Your child may also develop resistance to antibiotics.

What are the ways to prevent your child from catching common cold?

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and face unnecessarily
  • Use hand sanitisers
  • Avoid close contact with persons having cold
  • Avoid day care centres and playgroups when unwell to prevent your child from infecting other children
  • Check that your child does not have Vitamin D deficiency and anaemia.
  • Lack of sleep and stress reduce immunity. Ensure your child gets adequate rest.
  • The influenza vaccine covers a small portion of all colds.

Common cold leads to a lot of discomfort and affects the quality of life of a child. So, it is important to handle it correctly – with a lot of supportive care and love.

The author is a Pediatrician, Neonatologist and Respiratory & Allergy specialist.

How to treat the common cold

The common cold is the most frequent illness managed in general practice. Despite a long search for a cure only potential treatments for the symptoms have been established. Colds afflict most adults two to four times a year and children four to eight times a year, and the resulting hours of absenteeism from work or school have enormous economic bearings. Several viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are by far the most common. Studies evaluating various treatments for the common cold are divided into experimentally induced and naturally occurring colds. Treatments studied included symptomatic measures, pharmacological blockers, and specific antiviral agents, as well as drugs with yet unestablished mechanism of action. A systematic, evidence based assessment of this literature is imperative for rational selection of treatment—if any—for patients with a common cold.

Summary points

Alleviation of symptoms remains the only proved way to treat the common cold. First generation antihistamines, anticholinergics, and α agonists effectively reduce rhinorrhea and sneezing, but have minimal effects on other symptoms. Antitussive agents are probably of minimal benefit

Over-the-counter cold treatments are effective only in adults and adolescents

Antiviral drugs such as interferon alfa-2b are effective only if taken before symptoms develop

Zinc may reduce the duration and intensity of symptoms but a safe effective dose is not yet established

Mast cell stabilisers have shown promising results but have not been evaluated in large trials

Overuse of cold treatments by both doctors and patients is a major problem requiring education of both parties


I reviewed articles cited in Medline between 1966 and 1997 using the keywords common cold, treatment, therapy, and drug treatment. I selected well designed randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trials and authoritative review articles on specific topics in treatment of the common cold. Articles published within the past five years were selected …

COLD and flu season is upon us. If you’re feeling under the weather, this inexpensive and delicious vegetable could give your immune system a fighting chance.

NHS advises how to treat a common cold

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Britain is currently in the grip of the ‘worst cold ever’ as many snotty-nosed and sore-throated Brits suffer from the seasonal cold. There may be no cure for the common cold, but there are natural remedies that have been shown to reduce your symptoms and speed up your recovery.

Related articles

How to treat the common cold

How to treat the common cold

After 18 months of on and off isolation from Covid, many people are finding their immune systems are not as fighting fit as they used to be.

Luckily, by adding one inexpensive and delicious ingredient to your diet, you can offer your immune system a natural boost.

So, what 25p vegetable can help your immune system fight the common cold?

How to treat the common cold

What vegetable can help relieve common cold symptoms? (Image: Getty)

How to treat the common cold

Garlic is full of health benefits, including reducing the length of a cold (Image: Getty)


How to treat the common cold

Garlic is a beloved ingredient for its pungent and aromatic flavour, adding punch to pasta, curry and meat dishes.

But this flavourful bulb can also help your body’s natural defences against colds and flu.

In Ancient Greece, garlic was even considered to be a performance enhancer and was given to the original Olympians.

These days, the consensus from researchers is that garlic has many health benefits, including reducing the nasty symptoms of the common cold.

How to treat the common cold

If you needed an excuse to eat more garlic bread, here it is. (Image: Getty)

What gives garlic its medicinal properties?

The compound that gives garlic its wonderful and unmistakable taste and smell, is the same substance making it such an effective remedy.

This substance is called Alliin, and when a clove of garlic is crushed or cut the alliin becomes allicin.

Allicin is both antibacterial and antifungal, in short: it’s definitely worth the strong-smelling breath.

How to treat the common cold

Black garlic, a fermented version of regular garlic, comes with even more health benefits (Image: Getty)


How to treat the common cold

Studies have suggested taking garlic supplements can make you less likely to catch a cold, and if you’re unfortunate enough to catch one, garlic can help you to recover faster.

Allicin isn’t the only nutrient you’ll get from garlic. Fresh garlic also contains antioxidants and amino acids.

Garlic has also been credited with improving your heart health by lowering your cholesterol, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.

If you can get your hands on some, the rarer variation of black garlic is said to have even more potent healing properties.

Black garlic is a regular bulb of garlic that has been fermented.


The process of fermentation turns the bulb black, and tones down the flavour, making the garlic sweeter and more tangy.

Because of the fermentation, black garlic contains even higher levels of antioxidants than regular garlic.

But, if you are not a fan of the smell and taste of garlic in food, don’t worry.

You can also take garlic supplements, which even come in ‘odourless’ varieties – much to the joy of your nearest and dearest.

In Japan it is sometimes said a remedy for the common cold is to wear a warm green onion (Allii Fistulosi) around the neck. This practice is not as popular as before, but still many other articles about the topic can be found on the Internet.

How to treat the common cold

Is there any study showing this is an effective cure?

The theory is for instance reported in a guide by mainstream media company OKwave:

ネギには硫化アリルという成分が含まれており、抗菌・殺菌作用があるんだそうです。 首に巻くと、硫化アリルが口や鼻から吸収されて、鼻やのどを殺菌してくれるのだそうです。

“Green onion cures common cold”: The old saying is actually true!
It is said that in green onion there is an allyl sulphuration component, which has an antibacterial/antimicrobial and bactericidal/germicidal action, and by wrapping it around the neck, the allyl sulphuration is absorbed via the mouth and nose, which sterilizes the nose and throat.

Another article focuses on simply alleviating the symptoms of common cold:

Most people think that wrapping a green onion around the neck means that substance gets into the threat by contact, but in fact the most efficient way the substance enters the body is by gas from the wrapped green onion. The scent of the green onion has components that act as anti-inflammatory and sterilizer, allowing nerves to relax allowing better sleep.

How to treat the common cold

2 Answers 2

There may never be a cure for the common cold!

It is very unlikely that we are going to see a cure for the common cold because of the following problems-

• Common cold is not a single disease but a syndrome of symptoms caused by many different viruses. Defeating smallpox with a single vaccine was a relatively easy task compared to developing multiple vaccines for common cold

• By the time you know you have a cold it is probably too late to treat, as antivirals need to be taken 24-48 hours after onset of symptoms

amongst other reasons.

The best I can say, is that there are various studies regarding the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of all the allium family, including the scallion.

In conclusion this study has shown that the acqueous and methanol extracts of Allium ascalonicum have mild analgesic activity and strong anti-inflammatory activities.

Findings – Both garlic and onions exert their effects on human health via multiple different functions, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. The organosulphur compounds in these spices scavenge oxidizing agents, inhibit the oxidation of fatty acids, thereby preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory messengers, and inhibit bacterial growth, via interaction with sulphur-containing enzymes.

Smelling, so inhaling the fumes of onion and garlic is essentially inhaling the volatilized chemical componds, expecially if the scallion or onion is minced and warmed.

That’s not very different from the way commercial products like Vicks VapoRub works, as the “Vapor” part is essentially inhaling menthol and camphor fumes, and both have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Those analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties are going to help with the symptoms of the cold (as Avrohom Yitzchok has said, right now you can’t really cure the cause of the cold).

Adding to that, the anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties may help curing eventual bacterial complications caused by the cold.

How to treat the common cold

There are simple and effective ways to cure cold, the most popular virus infection disease. Most people get the cold virus 2 to 4 times a year. Children are even more prone candidates to cold, since statistics show that children fall «victims» of virus infection at least 6 to 10 times a year. Cold is also the most common reason for visiting the doctor.

The common cold usually lasts for one week, although it may be extended for up to 2 weeks, it can be cured without treatment. If you notice that your cold lasts more than two weeks, then it is something serious and you should visit your doctor.

The cold virus comes in about 200 different forms. We can get the cold through breathing, handshaking, kissing or touching. Contrary to what most people think, we do not get the cold because of climate changes, or from poor nutrition or exercise. [See also 30 Medical Myth Busters you must know]. Statistics also show that people who are suffering from asthma or allergies are more likely to be infected by the cold virus. Stress is also one of the reasons we get the cold.

There are things we can do and measures to take in order to cure cold. This article gives an overview of 10 simple actions for a fast treatment from cold.

The most common symptoms of cold are:

  • Runny or Blocked nose
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished sense of taste and smell
  • Congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Low Fever

Cold prevention techniques

To reduce the chances of getting the cold virus you can follow these simple rules:

  • Wash your hands regularly – and always before meals or before touching your eyes and your mouth.
  • Disinfect surfaces that can keep germs such as handrails and handles.
  • Try to avoid people that have the cold virus
  • Avoid being indoor with a lot of people, especially during the periods where virus diseases are on the rise.

10 Ways to cure from cold

1. Consume many liquids

As a first cure from cold try to consume a lot of water, juices and drinks (e.g. Tea and herbs in general). Liquids prevent the «drying» of our throat and nose, they help the mucous membranes glands to remain open and so it is easier to clean. Liquids are also valuable when you have fever. In this case there is increased risk of loss of liquids with dehydration. In addition, the hydration of the body contributes to the removal of toxins produced from dead cells, which increases it’s ability to fight the virus.

2. Avoid coffee and alcohol

Try to avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol because those substances tend to dehydrate our body and this is not what we want while we are cold.

3. Water vapour and hot baths

Water vapour and hot baths are the most common home cures for cold. Some people are standing in the bathroom with running hot water; others inhale the vapour over a pot with boiling water. It is believed that the steam can facilitate congestion. The virus is also susceptible to very high temperatures, so it is possible that the steam can «kill» the virus through the nasal cavities.

4. Hot Soups

Many people consider a warm soup as the best cure the cold. The advantages of such a traditional cure comes from the broth, which keeps the body hydrated and it also helps with the vapour. It is therefore likely that any kind of hot broth will bring the same benefits. Research made for the consumption of chicken soup while in a cold showed that the ingredients of chicken soup can actually reduce the swelling of the nasal cavities and help in the faster cure from common cold. Also chicken soup can give the protein from chicken, a substance necessary for our body to build antibodies to fight viruses.

5. Use a humidifier

These devices are a good method to make more humid air. This may help to keep nasal cavities in liquid form and thus avoid the blocking of the nose. When using the humidifier make sure to clean them regularly to block the possibility of transferring mould in the air.

6. Rest

One of the most important factors in getting cure from cold is a good sleep and generally relaxing. You need to get plenty of rest in order for your body to resist the cold virus better, faster and more efficient. If you have fever you should definitely stay home, switch off your mobile and try to relax. Most people tend to try and overcome cold with out resting. Experts’ advice is to stay at home and relax for two days in a warm environment. Typical temperature could be 24-25 Celsius (75.2 F).

7. Wash your mouth with salt water

It may sound like an advice from your grandmother but practice has shown that washing your mouth with salt water is one of the cures for sore throat. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt into a class of warm water and make five to six gargles. These will definitely relief your sore throat.

8. Do not smoke

Although you should stop smoking for a number of reasons, smoking when you are cold has additional disadvantages. Smoking can aggravate the symptoms of cold, while aggravating can also be passive smoking.

9. Watch your diet

Although it is not proven that diet can help you cure from cold, eating fruits and vegetables full of vitamin C can help you overcome faster from cold. Vitamin C strengthens the protection of the body, protects it from virus diseases and contributes to better functioning of white blood cells, the role of which is to fight viruses. Other food, which can assist you in recovering faster from cold, includes:

Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, parsley, celery, cauliflower
Foods containing zinc

10. Do not Exercise

Avoid exercise and all sorts of physical activity, for 3-4 days in order to give your body a chance to save forces for fighting the virus.

Learn how to distinguish COVID-19 from the flu and the common cold.

As COVID-19 remains prevalent in the U.S. and our community, many people have questions about the differences between the cold, the flu and the coronavirus; how to know which of these viruses you have; and when to seek medical attention. Although the cold, the flu and COVID-19 viruses have many similarities, there are also some important differences you need to know. Keep reading for more information.


All three viruses can affect different parts of the body and can cause varying degrees of illness — from mild or none to very severe symptoms.

Because symptoms can be so similar, it may be difficult for you and even your doctor to determine if you have the flu or COVID-19 until you have been tested. If you have symptoms and suspect you have the flu or COVID-19, call the University Health Center at 402-472-5000 for evaluation and to arrange testing if appropriate.

Difference between COVID-19, the flu and a cold

Signs/Symptoms COVID-19 Flu Cold
Symptom onset Varies Abrupt Gradual
Fever Often Often Rare
Cough Often (usually dry) Often Often
Aches Sometimes Often Slightly
Sneezing/stuffy nose Rare Sometimes Often
Sore throat Sometimes Sometimes Often
Chest discomfort/cough Often Often Sometimes
Loss of taste and/or smell Often Rare Rare


How quickly will I develop symptoms?

COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days, and the average time from infection to becoming symptomatic is five days. Although the exact time from infection to the point where you can transmit the virus is uncertain, it is believed to be approximately two days before symptoms start.

Flu symptoms usually begin more quickly than COVID-19 or the common cold — within about two days of being infected. Like COVID-19, people with the flu and a cold can pass it on to someone else before they know they are sick.

How contagious is the flu compared to COVID-19?

Direct contact with respiratory droplets caused by coughing, sneezing or talking has been the primary known method of transmission for both illnesses. These droplets usually do not travel more than 6 feet, which is why it is important to stay at least 6 feet apart from others and wear a face covering if you have not been fully vaccinated.

However, tiny respiratory droplets called aerosols may also spread COVID-19 under the right conditions. Aerosols are small enough to float further than large respiratory droplets, which are heavier and fall more quickly to the ground.

People with COVID-19 can be contagious for 10 days or more after symptoms first appear, according to the CDC. This is a longer contagion period than people with influenza, so they can infect more people.

Most people who develop the flu are contagious for about one day before symptoms appear. And because symptoms usually appear more quickly, they can isolate themselves from others early on. People with the flu are usually contagious for the initial three to four days while they are ill and for about seven days after.


Most people who get the flu will recover quickly — within a few days or two weeks at most. In rare cases, they could develop complications such as pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, worsening chronic medical conditions and secondary bacterial infections. It may take longer to recover from all symptoms of the common cold, but it is rare that it will develop into complications.

Severe cases of COVID-19 can cause similar complications as the flu, as well as kidney failure, blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain. Chronic fatigue or “long haul” syndrome is also now identified in those moderate to severe COVID-19 infections.


Antibiotics will not help because colds, flus and COVID-19 are viruses and not bacterial infections. Certain over-the-counter items, like those in the table to the right, can help you manage mild to moderate symptoms. All of these items can be purchased at the University Health Center pharmacy. In addition, you are encouraged to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

There are antiviral medications that can treat both moderate to severe COVID-19 and the flu. Remdesivir is the antiviral drug approved for COVID-19 in emergency cases and is used for sicker patients. Low dose dexamethasone is also being used for patients needing supplemental oxygen. These drugs do not cure the disease, but help how quickly some people recover. Similarly, for influenza, a drug called oseltamivir, commonly known as Tamiflu®, treats the viral infection and reduces viral shed. It is most effective if given within two days of symptoms starting.

Symptoms and OTC Medications

Symptom Over-the-Counter Medication Instructions
Fever, sore throat and/or pain relief Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) free at the health center


1 tab every 12 hours

Loratadine (Claritin)

Guaifenesin/Pseudoephedrine (Mucinex D)

How to treat the common cold

  • A new study has found that shutting off a specific protein stops certain types of viral infections, including the common cold.
  • The findings are still in their early stages, but researchers hope to develop a drug that replicates these effects.
  • In the meantime, you can reduce your chances of catching the cold this winter by boosting your immune system and trying immune-friendly supplements. Keep reading to find out how.

Sniffling. Congestion. Piles of snotty tissues. The common cold is a total buzzkill, and even though there are steps you can take to prevent it, nobody is immune — yet. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology, disabling a specific protein inside our cells might be able to protect us from the common cold and other viral diseases.

What the study found

How to treat the common cold

Enteroviruses are a group of viruses associated with conditions like asthma, encephalitis and polio. The common cold is usually caused by a type of enterovirus called rhinovirus. Here’s the frustrating part: Rhinoviruses are really good at developing drug resistance, and there are roughly 160 different types of rhinovirus (that we know of). If you’ve ever had two or three colds in a row, that’s why.

Like a rude house guest, viruses spread by infecting a host cell and gobbling up the proteins inside. Researchers at Stanford University and University of California-San Francisco discovered a way to disable a specific protein that prevents enteroviruses from setting up shop inside of cells.

Here’s how they did it: The researchers used gene editing to turn off specific genes inside of human cells. They exposed the modified cells to enteroviruses. None of the enteroviruses were able to replicate in cells that lacked the protein SETD3. Bioengineered mice that lacked this protein were actually impervious to infection from two enteroviruses that can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

These findings are still in their early stages, but researchers hope to develop a drug that can replicate these effects without interfering with SETD3’s regular function. In the meantime, keep reading to learn what you can do to prevent the common cold — and get over it quickly.

How to beat the common cold

You can’t completely prevent the common cold. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of catching the sniffles.

More News From Bulletproof

Boost your body’s natural defenses

How to treat the common cold

Your immune system is your body’s defense against infections and disease. You can take steps to make sure your immune system is strong and capable of fighting off the bad guys (looking at you, rhinovirus).

  • Sleep: A lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds. [1][2]Find out how to sleep better.
  • Move: Exercise is good for you, and it can help your body fight infection. Maintain a consistent workout routine, and don’t forget to move throughout the day.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands and keep those paws away from your face: Germs can easily enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Drink water: Good ol’ H20 is one of the best ways to support your immune system. Water helps your body get rid of toxins and waste. Check out the best ways to stay hydrated.
  • Take care of your gut: Your gut bacteria play a big role in your immune system by helping defend your body from infections. Find out how to boost your gut health.

Try immune-friendly supplements

How to treat the common cold

Getting enough high-quality sleep, moving your body, eating a nutrient-rich diet and staying hydrated are all pieces of a healthy lifestyle that support a rockstar immune system. The following supplements can help take your germ-busting power to the next level.

  • Glutathione: This is your body’s master antioxidant, but it can be depleted by the stress of everyday living. Bulletproof Glutathione Force boosts your natural glutathione stores for maximum immune support.
  • Ashwagandha: This adaptogenic herb is packed with mind-body benefits, including immune support. Learn how it works (and how to use it) here.
  • Polyphenols: These are micronutrients found in plant-based foods, and they’re loaded with antioxidants to support healthy immune function. Bulletproof Polyphenomenal contains 1,770mg of plant-based polyphenols sourced from 10 different berries and botanicals so you can feel, well, phenomenal.
  • Vitamins A, D and K: This trio works together to support your bones, heart and immune system. Get them in optimal doses in Bulletproof ADK.

And if all else fails

How to treat the common cold

Have you been hit with a cold? Get over it quickly with this feel-better-fast checklist. It’s packed with natural cold remedies that actually work — so you can get back to feeling awesome in no time.

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Rebecca is a writer based in Southern California. She enjoys waking up super early and drinking strong coffee. When she isn’t reading about the latest developments in fitness and nutrition, you can find her training jiu jitsu, meal prepping or listening to podcasts.

By disabling a single host protein, scientists were astonished to find mice were made immune to the common cold

By Nicole Karlis

Published September 21, 2019 2:00PM (EDT)


Despite the common cold being so — well — common, researchers have never succeeded in the long dream of curing or immunizing against the array of rhinoviruses that generally cause it. Though the common cold generally does not kill those who are not infirm or immunocompromised, it costs billions in lost time and energy. Now, new research hints that science might be closing in on the cold.

In a study to be published in Nature Microbiology, researchers at Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco say that the cure to the common cold could be the result of disabling one single host protein.

“Our grandmas have always been asking us, ‘If you’re so smart, why haven’t you come up with a cure for the common cold?’” Jan Carette, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University at Stanford University, said in a media statement. “Now we have a new way to do that.”

In the study, Carette and his colleagues found a way to stop a broad range of enteroviruses, the class of RNA viruses that includes cold viruses, after discovering that enteroviruses could not be replicated without one host protein, known as SETD3. After the discovery, the researchers bioengineered mice without this protein. To their surprise, they grew healthily into adulthood, and they were impermeable to infection by two enteroviruses that can cause paralytic and fatal encephalitis — even when the enteroviruses were injected into the mice’s brains. Rhinoviruses, a type of enterovirus, are the most common viral infectious agent in humans and the main cause of the common cold.

“In contrast to normal mice, the SETD3-deficient mice were completely unaffected by the virus,” Carette said. “It was the virus that was dead in the water, not the mouse.”

Carette said this research means that one day they might be able to develop a drug with broad antiviral activity against all enteroviruses. This wouldn’t just affect cold viruses like rhinoviruses: poliovirus is another kind of enterovirus, and so is acute flaccid myelitis, which has been a recent cause of concern.

In July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked doctors to be on the lookout for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) which resembles polio. Currently, physicians have no vaccine nor any means of prevention.

“AFM is a devastating illness for patients and their families,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director, told reporters Tuesday. “We know families are facing uncertainties when it comes to their child’s recovery from AFM, and we want parents to know that we are keeping their children front and center and working with our partners to better understand this illness, its risk factors, and ways to treat and prevent it.”

In Carette’s research, they did find one issue: the mice without the protein had difficulty giving birth. Previous research has shown that SETD3 modifies actin, a protein vital to muscle contractions.

“It seems actin methylation is important for smooth muscle contraction during childbirth,” Carette said.

Typically, antivirals target viral proteins, but using this approach, as Carette explained to Scientific American, “you target a host protein, so the virus cannot simply mutate away the drug-binding site.”

“It has the potential to be broad-spectrum, and there’s less chance of developing antiviral resistance,” Carette said. “There’s real enthusiasm for this kind of approach.”

Researchers think they’re close to a cure for the common cold, but they first need to solve a complex problem that’s perplexed scientists for decades

How to treat the common cold

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Polio, smallpox, hepatitis A and B are all serious viruses humanity learned to subdue with effective solutions. Even the flu, which can shift and mutate each year, has a vaccine. And yet, there’s no remedy for the lowly cold.

That’s not for lack of trying, though. The hunt for a cure for the common cold began in the 1950s, shortly after scientists discovered the primary group of pathogens—known as rhinoviruses—behind the sniffles. Together it accounts for up to 75 percent of colds in adults. But scientists quickly ran into an issue that still stymies researchers today, says Peter Barlow, an immunologist at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland who is working on a cure for the cold. “The main challenge with rhinovirus is the number of circulating strains,” he says.

There’s at least 160 different strains, or serotypes, of rhinovirus, Barlow says. That means cracking the cold isn’t so much looking for one solution to one problem as it is trying to design a master key to open hundreds of different locks at once. “It’s incredibly difficult to create a vaccine or drug that will target all of those 160 [strains],” Barlow says.

The discovery of these strains, made through the 1990s, was a blow to vaccine development, says virologist Martin Moore of Meissa Vaccines, a company currently developing an inoculation against rhinovirus. “You’ve got this great number of serotypes that circulate all the time, and that really discouraged a lot of people from seriously working on vaccines.” The early work done in the mid-20th century showed simple vaccines could immunize people against one strain, but the idea of developing dozens or even hundreds of vaccines for one illness—let alone a single individual requiring so many shots—is impractical and costly.

Still, researchers are working on some clever work-arounds, Moore says. One way, which a group at Imperial College London is currently investigating, is to discover some part of the viral structure that’s shared between all 160 serotypes. If they can successfully target an immune response against that common structure, then they could design a single vaccine that would offer protection against every strain of rhinovirus.

Moore’s company is going for a more traditional approach, he says. Vaccines can be made to inoculate against one strain, but strains can also be mixed together into a kind of vaccine cocktail. The polio vaccine consisted of all three of polio’s viral serotypes, and the vaccine created against pneumonia has components from 23 different bacterial strains. “People have steadily increased the number of components in vaccines over the years,” Moore says. “It’s just adding more things. We’re taking, I would say, the least exciting approach but, yeah, a tried and true method.”

Moore’s goal is to create a vaccine mix of at least 80 strains, covering the group of rhinovirus serotypes that are the most common and virulent. Unlike the flu virus, Moore says rhinovirus isn’t likely to mutate into new forms—serums created decades ago are still effective against their specific rhinovirus strains today. Once the vaccine is complete, it shouldn’t need much updating. Recently Moore was able to create an effective inoculation with 50 serotypes of rhinovirus, but he doesn’t expect the remaining 30 to come easily. Each new serotype added to the mix costs a significant amount of money and adds complexity to the formula, he says.

Other researchers, like Barlow, are looking for compounds to cure the cold after an infection. For this, researchers are looking to the human body’s own defenses for inspiration. “We’re interested in a family of very tiny molecules found in [human] immune systems known as host defense peptides,” Barlow says. Our immune systems release these compounds after an infection, and he thinks they are able to attack the virus or prevent it from replicating. At the moment, these peptides degrade pretty quickly, so he is trying to find a way to stabilize them so they can be taken as a drug.

Still, some of the challenges don’t lie in rhinovirus’s variegated biology, Barlow says. “There are a lot of societal challenges, I think,” he says. “Even if we find a cure for the cold, it probably won’t be made available to healthy people who shrug the cold off in three to four days.” A cure might not even be that useful, because most people are already recovering by the time they’re able to see a doctor. Plus, you would need to test to see if you even had rhinovirus rather than some unrelated virus that causes identical symptoms such as human coronavirus or adenovirus. “I don’t think there’s particularly been an appetite for developing a drug that acts in the early stages of a cold,” he says.

But a cure is still worth finding, Barlow says. The common cold might be a nuisance that causes most people to lay up for a few days, but it can seriously exacerbate chronic respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)or cystic fibrosis. “If someone is in the hospital already and has an exacerbation of an existing disease [from rhinovirus], the medication can be delivered quickly,” he notes. In this case, such a cure could save lives.

How to treat the common cold How to treat the common cold

By DEANNA FOX , Albany Times Union
November 25, 2013 – 2:54 PM

We’ve started to hear it: the sniffles from the person in the next cubicle. The dreaded middle-of-the-night coughs from a child. It’s the cacopho­ny of cold season, and we are in the throes of it.

But more people are choosing to step away from the Sudafed.

That’s because many studies show that conventional treatments are either not as effective, or have the same effectiveness, as classic home remedies. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration advises caregivers to avoid giving children under 2, and in some cases age 6, over-the-counter cold medicine.

So, while previous generations turned away from homemade options in favor of commercially produced “convenience” medications, a growing number of pediatricians and parents alike are turning to natural remedies to combat sniffles and stuffy heads.

Some of these home remedies have withstood the test of time, like chicken soup and the power of locally sourced honey.

Reports from the Mayo Clinic have found that chicken soup relieves congestion, limits inflammation (because it inhibits the movement of neutrophils, an immune system cell), and speeds up the movement of mucus in the body.

A more adult cold reliever is the hot toddy. Much like chicken soup’s vapors help with congestion, the same is true with a toddy. The alcohol can dilate blood vessels, helping mucus and white blood cells fight infection, and also provide a mild sedative, making for a good night’s sleep when slumber is elusive because of cold symptoms.

Another key ingredient is honey. Honey, particularly raw honey, is full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and sulfur, which help to soothe sore throats and may speed recovery.

“On the Score of Hospitality: Selected Recipes of a Van Rensselaer Family, Albany, New York, 1785-1835,” a book filled with recipes and cures produced from the “Historic Cherry Hill Recipe Collection,” advocates for the use of toddy-type elixirs. Combining rum or wine with an assortment of herbs, botanical oils, and water or milk was recommended for curing sore throats, colds, coughs and “the dropsy.”


General Practitioner, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, UNSW Sydney

Disclosure statement

Michael Tam is a general practitioner and consults with patients who suffer from the common cold. He otherwise does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.


UNSW Sydney provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

How to treat the common cold

With symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, headaches and fever, the common cold can leave you feeling rotten for up to two weeks.

As the name suggests, they’re annoyingly common, with the average adult likely to get two or three colds a year, while children average ten.

Common colds are caused by more than 200 different viruses and tend to be milder than the flu. But while the influenza vaccination can prevent against the most common circulating strains of the flu, there’s no equivalent for the common cold.

So, can you prevent the common cold? Or treat it once you have it? Let’s put four popular therapies to the test: echinacea, garlic, vitamin C and zinc.


How to treat the common cold

Echinacea is a group of flowering plants common in North America, and was a traditional Native American medicine. These days you can buy the product in capsules, tablets or drops.

Around one in 20 Australians take echinacea, in the hope that extracts will stimulate immunity and kill off any bugs encountered.

In terms of prevention, taking echinacea products daily to avoid the common cold may slightly reduce the risk of getting a cold, but the evidence is rather murky. If we pool the results from studies that compared Echinacea to placebo treatment, people who took Echinacea seemed to get fewer colds. But there is major inconsistency between the individual studies, so combining them together this way isn’t very valid.

In terms of treatment, there is no convincing clinical evidence that taking echinacea products at the onset of symptoms can cure a cold or reduce the duration of illness.

However, it’s difficult to come to any clear conclusions or recommendations about echinacea’s effect on the common cold because the preparations studied have varied, with different species, parts of the plant, preparation method and dosage.

Echinacea products are not without side effects, such as allergic reactions in children which, though uncommon, can be severe.


How to treat the common cold

Garlic has been promoted as a natural preventative against the common cold, taken in commercial products or eaten raw.

It too is seen to have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and manufacturers claim it boosts the immune system. The mechanisms behind these actions are unclear but the chemical allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic, may be the active agent.

There is a dearth of quality scientific evidence about the effect of garlic on colds. The recent Cochrane systematic review which set out to answer this question could find only one study suitable for analysis.

Participants who took a garlic capsule (with a standardised dose of allicin powder) daily for three months reported fewer days of illness from colds than those who took a placebo. But they were more likely to suffer from side effects such as skin rash, and body odour.

These results may appear promising but need to be approached cautiously until replicated. It’s always possible there are biases in a single study – for instance, the study author appears to sell medicinal garlic products.

The lack of quality evidence precludes a recommendation for using garlic supplements for the common cold. But, of course, people who like eating garlic should continue to do so.

Vitamin C

How to treat the common cold

Vitamin C is commonly found in fresh fruits and vegetables and is one of the most common supplements taken by Australians. The use of vitamin C for the common cold became popular in the 1970s, following its promotion by American chemist Linus Pauling who believed it had many health benefits.

There is good study data on the effect that vitamin C has on the common cold: for the most part, it isn’t effective.

Taking vitamin C daily as a preventative has no effect on the likelihood of getting a cold in the general community. It might have a small effect on the severity of symptoms, and on the duration of illness (about a half day for a usual cold).

But taking vitamin C as treatment (taking a dose after you get a cold) does not have an effect on the duration or severity of symptoms.

This same data found that vitamin C can be beneficial for people undergoing heavy acute physical stress, such as marathon runners and alpine skiers. But this is an unusual and specific context and the results can’t be generalised for regular community settings.

How to treat the common cold

This mineral is an essential nutrient and is found in both plant and animal sources. Foods that are particularly rich in zinc include oysters, sun-dried tomatoes, beef and various seeds (including pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and pine nuts). Oral zinc is widely available in a number of different formulations.

Interestingly, oral zinc does appear to have a beneficial effect for the common cold, but with a number of major caveats.

When taken as a treatment at the onset of the cold, zinc appears to reduce the duration of a cold, but only at higher doses (more than 75 milligrams a day). Zinc might be more effective in adults than in children, and when taken as lozenges, particularly in the zinc acetate form.

There is little data on using zinc as a regular preventative, and you might not want to because it comes with a number of unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and bad taste.

It’s important to note that the results vary between studies and there is some evidence of publication bias. So it may be that the estimate of the effectiveness of zinc for the common cold is exaggerated.

When we step back, it isn’t really that surprising that nothing really works, or works that well for preventing or treating colds. Given how common it is, any truly effective therapy would be a massive commercial blockbuster and hardly a secret.

General practice registrars Dr Samuel Cheng and Dr Catherine Lip, from the GP Unit, Fairfield Hospital, co-authored this article.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Colds and flu symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the colds and flu Symptom Checker if you’re not sure what to do.

What are colds?

A cold is a viral infection that affects the nose, the throat and upper airways.

Colds are very common. Children may get between 5 and 10 colds a year, while adults may get 2 to 4 colds each year.

What are the symptoms of a cold?

The symptoms of a cold can be mild or they can be moderately severe.

Symptoms of a cold may include:

  • fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher)
  • sneezing
  • blocked or runny nose
  • cough
  • sore throat

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the colds and flu Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see my doctor?

Colds and flu can make other conditions worse, including conditions such as asthma or diabetes. See your doctor if you have cold or flu-like symptoms and one or more of the following apply:

  • you can’t or won’t drink fluids
  • you vomit frequently and/or are unable to drink fluids
  • you have an intense headache
  • you are pale and feel sleepy
  • you have chest pain
  • your symptoms have lasted longer than 10 days
  • you have breathing difficulties
  • you have a rash with fever
  • you are worried

See your doctor if your child has cold and flu symptoms and:

  • they have a chronic medical condition
  • they show warning signs of severe illness, including poor feeding, dehydration and difficulty breathing

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — Our Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

What causes colds?

More than 200 types of viruses can cause a cold. Those most responsible belong to 1 of 2 groups:

Because several viruses can cause a cold, it’s possible to have several colds, one after the other, because a different virus causes each one.

The viruses that cause a cold affect the lining of the nose and throat causing symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose and sneezing.

How is a cold diagnosed?

If you are generally healthy, you probably won’t need to see a doctor to have a cold diagnosed. A healthy immune system will fight the infection and symptoms will usually clear up in 7-10 days without any treatment.

See your doctor if you, or your child, has cold or flu-like symptoms and one or more of the following apply:

  • you have asthma, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, heart disease or another long-term medical condition
  • you have a fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher) and are feeling unwell (e.g. a you have a painful headache or stomach pain)
  • you are vomiting
  • you are experiencing shortness of breath, noisy or fast breathing
  • you have neck stiffness
  • you are sensitive to light
  • you have chest pain
  • you have a persistent cough
  • your muscles ache
  • you are experiencing marked tiredness and a lack of energy, or you are not drinking fluids

How are colds treated?

Colds and flu are treated the same way. In most cases you can treat the symptoms of a mild cold or flu yourself. Most people will get better by themselves within 7-10 days without any treatment.

Some things you can do to relieve cold or flu symptoms include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of water and other non-alcoholic fluids to prevent dehydration
  • keeping warm
  • eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke if possible
  • inhaling steam from a hot bath or shower in a closed room to help relieve a blocked nose – remember to always directly supervise children near hot water

If you have a sore throat, try:

  • gargling with warm salty water
  • sucking on an ice cube, ice block or a throat lozenge
  • drinking hot water with honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice

There are also several medicines available to ease cold and flu symptoms.

Antibiotics do not treat a cold. This is because they only treat illnesses caused by bacteria, while colds and flu are caused by viruses. However, you can buy medicines from the pharmacy that help with pain and fever.

Can colds be prevented?

Good hygiene is one of the most important ways to help prevent colds and flu. You can ensure good hygiene by:

  • washing your hands regularly and properly with soap and water, particularly after touching your nose or mouth, after using the toilet, and before handling food
  • sneezing and coughing into your elbow or a tissue (then throwing the tissue away immediately and washing your hands)
  • cleaning surfaces such as your computer keyboard, telephone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs
  • not sharing cups, plates and cutlery
  • where you can, avoiding sharing towels with other people and throwing disposable tissues and paper towels in the bin immediately after using them

Resources and support

Learn more about colds and flu here.

If you are feeling concerned about any symptoms of a cold or flu then see your doctor. If you would like to speak to a registered nurse, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).

Visit the Department of Health website for more information on the flu vaccine or or call the National Immunisation Hotline on 1800 671 811.

Review question
We reviewed evidence for the effectiveness of antihistamines on signs and symptoms of the common cold. We identified 18 trials with 4342 participants.

On average, young children have six to eight colds per year and adults have two to four. Common cold symptoms include sore throat, nasal stuffiness and discharge, sneezing and cough. It is caused by viruses and usually resolves by itself within one to two weeks. However, the common cold has a large impact on time off work or school.

As there is no cure for the common cold, only symptomatic treatment is available. Antihistamines are effective for allergic symptoms such as hay fever. Nasal symptoms of hay fever are similar to common cold symptoms and so trials have been conducted to see whether antihistamines improve common cold symptoms.

Study characteristics
The evidence is current to August 2015.

The participants were adults or children with a common cold. We excluded studies with participants suffering from hay fever, asthma or eczema. The effect of different antihistamines was compared to placebo. A beneficial effect meant a decrease in the severity or duration of the general feeling of illness and/or of specific symptoms such as stuffy nose, runny nose or sneezing. We also investigated whether side effects were more common with antihistamines than placebo.

As the common cold usually resolves in seven to 10 days, most studies were of short duration. Where possible we studied the immediate effect and the effect after six to 10 days. Most studies were of good quality although in some studies information to allow us to assess quality was lacking. We considered five out of 16 adults studies and one out of two paediatric studies to be of excellent quality.

All trials outlined the financial support received from pharmaceutical companies in the form of grants, supplying the respective intervention drug or having an author currently employed by a pharmaceutical company.

Key results
In adults, there is a short-term beneficial effect on severity of overall symptoms on the first or second day of treatment (45% felt better versus 38% with placebo), but there was no difference between antihistamines and placebo in the mid to long term. The effect of sedating antihistamines on rhinorrhoea and sneezing is too small to be relevant to the patient and involves a risk of side effects such as sedation (9% versus 5.2% with placebo). Trials in children were smaller and of lower quality and lacked evidence of effectiveness.

Antihistamines have a limited short-term (days one and two of treatment) beneficial effect on severity of overall symptoms but not in the mid to long term. There is no clinically significant effect on nasal obstruction, rhinorrhoea or sneezing. Although side effects are more common with sedating antihistamines, the difference is not statistically significant. There is no evidence of effectiveness of antihistamines in children.

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection, most commonly caused by a rhinovirus. It affects people of all age groups and although in most cases it is self limiting, the common cold still causes significant morbidity. Antihistamines are commonly offered over the counter to relieve symptoms for patients affected by the common cold, however there is not much evidence of their efficacy.

To assess the effects of antihistamines on the common cold.

We searched CENTRAL (2015, Issue 6), MEDLINE (1948 to July week 4, 2015), EMBASE (2010 to August 2015), CINAHL (1981 to August 2015), LILACS (1982 to August 2015) and Biosis Previews (1985 to August 2015).

We selected randomised controlled trials (RCTs) using antihistamines as monotherapy for the common cold. We excluded any studies with combination therapy or using antihistamines in patients with an allergic component in their illness.

Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We collected adverse effects information from the included trials.

More Articles

  1. How to Stop a Gagging Cough
  2. Remedy for a Bronchitis Cough
  3. How Do I Know If I’m Coming Down With the Flu?
  4. Nighttime Post Nasal Drip in Children
  5. Hot & Sour Soup for Colds

A cold, otherwise known as viral rhinitis, is a viral infection that hits the upper respiratory tract.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

This type of infection attacks both children and adults and can be passed from one person to another through a close contact with an infected individual (such as a handshake). Although the common cold is easily treated, manifestations of its early symptoms can really be discomforting–a clogged nose with constant sneezing,an itchy throat with dry or productive cough, headache, fever and a general feeling of being ill. Colds usually last for about 3 to 5 days but you can make yourself feel better with in a day by simply attending to your symptoms right away.

Treat your symptoms immediately. When symptoms of cold sets in, it is actually your body’s way of taking the virus off your system, such as coughing to expectorate mucus, or fever to fight the existing cold virus. However, if you really need to feel well for the sake of your work or school, then treat your symptoms immediately. For nasal congestion you can treat it by either taking an oral decongestants or nasal spray. You can take cough suppressants if you have dry cough or cough expectorants if you have a productive cough (cough with phlegm). If you have fever associated with body aches, taking acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) will help ease your discomfort. Take lozenges to ease your throat (those that contain zinc are highly recommended).

How to Stop a Gagging Cough

Keep yourself warm and be properly rested. Bed rest under a warm blanket is the best way to assist your body while it’s battling against the cold viruses in your system. It is normal for you to feel weak and drowsy when you’re ill, so just stay relax and allow your body to recover. The more you rest, the faster you heal. Take it easy if you want to get well sooner.

Drink lots of fluid. Flush those cold viruses away by constantly drinking plenty of water. You can also go for flavored liquids such as warm lemon juice with honey, orange juice and other fruit juices. Chicken broth is very effective in reducing the activity of white blood cells (neutrophils) that can induce an increase in mucus production.

Remedy for a Bronchitis Cough

Clear off that runny mucus. Blowing your nose more often is advisable than sniffing it back to your nose. The more you blow it out, the more you take a part of the virus out of your system, but this has to be done in a correct way. Blow one side of your nose at a time. Press one nostril and gradually blow on the other side and then vice versa. Do not blow both your nostrils at once, for it may only create pressure that can lead to ear ache.

Unclog that stuffy nose. You can do this by simply rubbing Vicks VapoRub on your back, chest, above your nose, and the space between your nostrils and upper lip. You can also massage the bridge of your nose with an up and down stroke using your index finger and thumb. The vapor of the menthol rub and the nose bridge massage, will loosen up your obstructed nose and will help you breathe more easily.

Eradicate that cold virus with steam inhalation. Boil 3 cups of water in a kettle. Prepare a bath towel, a medium-sized basin, and Vicks VapoRub. Position the basin into a chair and table where you can easily sit and do the steam inhalation process. Pour the boiled water into the basin, add a teaspoon of Vicks on it and mix. Then sit down and position your head above the basin, and cloak or surround the basin with your towel, allowing no steam to escape. Breathe in on the steam to relieve your stuffy nose and also to eliminate the existing cold virus (these type of viruses do not have the ability to survive at elevated temperatures).

Soothe that scratchy throat. Mix a teaspoon full of salt in a mug of warm water and gargle. This will help ease your irritated throat. Do this gargling procedure 4 times a day. You can also relieve your cold-infected throat by sipping hot liquid. This is quite a challenging method because here, you are to sip the hottest water temperature you can handle. You can either use plain water or tea mixed with lemon. After sipping one mug of hot liquid, drink a small glass of pure water at room temperature. This hot water method will not only help ease your irritated throat but will also help in eliminating your cold virus quickly.

Don’t force yourself to eat solid foods if you don’t feel like it. You can go for a very simple diet such as soups, raw fruits, and steamed vegetables, or you can just eat when you feel hungry, but make sure to drink lots of liquid to assist for your faster healing process. Antibiotics do not work when it comes to treating colds. These type of medications are only effective in fighting infections caused by bacteria. So taking antibiotics for your cold is no help at all.

  • How Do You Get a Cold?
    • What Causes a Cold?
  • Diagnosis
    • How Is a Cold Diagnosed?
  • Cold Treatments & Home Remedies
    • What Is the Treatment for a Cold?
  • Guide
    • What Are the Four Stages of a Cold? Topic Guide

How to treat the common cold

The common cold is a mild upper respiratory infection caused by viruses. Common colds are the most frequent acute illness in the U.S. and the industrialized world, and occur more frequently in winter and spring, but they can occur any time of year.

Common Cold Symptoms and Duration

A cold usually lasts about 7 to 10 days, but some symptoms, especially runny and stuffy nose and cough, can last for up to 2 weeks. A cold usually progresses through certain stages. The stages of a cold include four stages, as described in the table below.

Stage 2: Appearance and progression of symptoms

Stage 3: Remission

What Causes a Cold?

More than 200 viruses are known to cause the common cold, but the most common type are rhinoviruses. Adenoviruses and enteroviruses are other common viruses that can cause the common cold.

Risk factors for catching a cold include:

  • Close contact with someone who has a cold
  • Season: certain viruses are more common during certain times of year
  • Age: infants and young children have more colds each year than adults

How Is a Cold Diagnosed?

The common cold is diagnosed based upon a history of the patient’s reported symptoms and a physical examination.

Testing is not usually needed to diagnose a common cold.

Tests may be used to rule out other infections that cause similar symptoms to the common cold:

  • Nasal swab testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
  • Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) or rapid molecular assays for the flu (influenza)
  • Chest X-rays for lower respiratory tract infection

What Is the Treatment for a Cold?

There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics do not help treat colds caused by viruses.

Home remedies are usually used to help relieve symptoms of the common cold, such as:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to moisturize the air
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
  • Saline nasal spray or drops to moisten nasal passages
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to relieve symptoms
    • Pain relievers and fever reducers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
      • Do not give aspirin to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness
    • Cough and cold medicines
  • Lozenges to relieve sore throat (do not give lozenges to young children as they can be a choking hazard)