Common Cold Treatments: A Look at the Best and Worst

Winter is here and with the cold weather comes the common cold and flu. Make sure you’re ready for to tackle any cold that comes your way by knowing what medications and remedies work the best and which ones you should be avoiding.

an assortment of common cold remedies and medication

What Works (The Best)

Unfortunately, there are no instant fixes or cures for the common cold out there, but there are effective ways to fight it. The purpose of cold medications and remedies is to help you combat the illness and the symptoms it is causing you.

Below are some of our recommended choices for cold medications and remedies. However, one of the best ways for you to combat a cold is by getting plenty of rest. Also, be sure to drink a lot of fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol. It is important to keep in mind that certain medications and remedies work best for specific symptoms, so the type of treatment that will be best for you can depend on the cold symptoms you are experiencing


Fever, Aches, and Sore Throat

One of the most common symptoms associated with a cold are having a fever, aches, and a sore throat. These symptoms can cause a lot of discomfort and make it hard for you to get the rest you need to recover. Your best bet when trying to treat these symptoms are drugs that act as a pain reliever and fever reducer, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.


Do you get an unrelenting cough when you have a cold? Well there are medications that are good for treating this. There are two types of medications that work best for treating coughs.:

  • Expectorants – Medications with expectorants, such as guaifenesin, are great for thinning the mucus in your airways. This causes your chest congestion to begin to break up and loosen, allowing you to get rid of phlegm better.
  • Cough suppressants – The purpose of a cough suppressant, such as dextromethorphan, is to temporarily affect the part of your brain that controls your urge to cough, suppressing the feeling for a brief period.

Stuffy Nose

Nobody likes the feeling of a stuffy nose. It makes it very difficult to breathe and you just don’t feel like doing anything other than sitting at home all day. Again, there are two forms of medications that work best for a stuffy nose:

  • Nasal Sprays – Nasal sprays can be a quick and effective way of clearing up that stuffy nose. Look for medications with phenylephrine and oxymetazoline. Be careful not to overuse nasal sprays, as this can actually worsen your congestion.
  • Syrups or pills – These medications may not work as quickly as a nasal spray, but can be very effective. Keep an eye out for medications with pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.

Sneezing, Runny Nose, Watery Eyes

When you are suffering from sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose it can become extremely aggravating. These symptoms are caused by a chemical produced by the body known as histamines. To relieve these symptoms you want to look for antihistamines, like diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine. But be warned, these medications can cause drowsiness and you nose, eyes and mouth to dry out.

As with any medication, make sure you read the label and directions carefully before using. If you have any concerns about how these drugs will interact with another medication you are already taking, talk to you doctor to make sure that it is safe for you.

Recommended Home Remedies

Many people prefer not to take drugs to try and combat their cold symptoms, but would rather use natural remedies for relief. There are natural remedies that can be very helpful for fighting colds, but make sure you know which ones work and which ones won’t. Here are some natural remedies for fighting a cold that can be very effective.


  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is great for boosting your immune system and can really help you prevent getting a cold in the first place.The best way to get enough vitamin D is to take vitamin D supplements, but fortified dairy products and fish can be good sources as well.
  • Omega 3s – If you are not already getting omega 3s into your system, then it is time to start! Omega 3s are extremely beneficial for you. Omega 3s help fortify your immune system and protect against respiratory infections.
  • Ginseng – Ginseng is another beneficial supplement for fighting and preventing colds. It helps increase your body’s white blood cell count and strengthen the immune system.
  • Astragalus – This is a Chinese root that has been shown to boost the immune system. However, this supplement can take several weeks to become fully effective.


One of the best natural ways to combat an illness is by staying hydrated. The best things to drink when trying to stay hydrated are water, clear broth, juice, and warm lemon water with honey. Drinking a lot of these liquids has to main benefits. First, it helps prevent dehydration and second, it helps to break up congestion.

While you may have heard that you should drink a lot of fluids if you are sick, there are certain fluids you should avoid. Make sure you stay away from drinks with caffeine and alcohol when you have a cold, as these can lead you to be more dehydrated.

Sip Warm Liquids

Another effective way to use fluids to your advantage when trying to combat a cold is to sip warm liquids. Warm liquids, such as tea and chicken noodle soup, help to increase mucus flow. This helps break up congestion and these liquids can be soothing for sore throats.


Probably the most effective remedy for combating a cold is to get plenty of rest. Some people may even need 12 hours of sleep a day. Resting allows your immune system to really get to work healing your body.

Gargle Saltwater

A saltwater gargle can be very effective in easing a sore throat. Make sure to use warm water and dissolve a ½ teaspoon of salt into 8oz of water.

What Doesn’t Work (The Worst)

When you have been suffering from a cold for a while, you may be looking for any solutions to help relieve your agony. However, it is important for you to know what remedies work and which ones are better left alone. There are a lot of common remedies out there that really do nothing to help fight your cold symptoms and we are here to show you what those are.

Remedies That are not Recommended


  • Zinc – Zinc is a supplement that is often associated with helping to boost the immune system and combat illness. However, studies are conflicting as to whether or not zinc is actually beneficial. Zinc can also have some negative side effects and it is not recommended.
  • Echinacea – This is another supplement to avoid. While it may help shorten the length of your cold if taken right away, it is known to have unwanted side effects and certain brands may not contain the amounts they claim.
  • Vitamin C – Often talked up as a good way to combat a cold, there is no evidence that this is actually true. On top of that, vitamin C can actually cause health problems in large doses, such as kidney stones.


Antibiotics are good for combatting bacteria. However, they are not effective for fighting colds. Taking antibiotics does nothing to help ease your cold symptoms and it will not help you get over a cold any faster. Best to stay away from them and try resting instead.

Saline Nasal Sprays

A saline nasal spray is a very common remedy for a clogged or runny nose. However, these sprays really do nothing to actually combat your cold. If you find that it does provide temporary relief for your nasal symptoms though, it may be worth a shot.

There are many remedies and medications out there for treating and easing cold symptoms. Now you may have a better idea of which ones to use and which ones to avoid, but remember that only time and rest can truly help you defeat a cold virus.



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