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 Cold/Flu  Holistic-online.com

Conventional Treatment for Cold

There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, and therefore useless in treating colds.

Treatment of colds is aimed at providing symptomatic relief. There are many over-the-counter medicines that promise relief of the common cold. Most of these are combinations of some of the drugs that treat specific symptoms. The question is how good are they.

After analyzing the findings of 51 studies published between 1950 and 1991, researchers concluded that over-the-counter cold remedies have no effect on cold viruses or the immune system. They suppress symptoms, providing some degree of relief from nasal congestion, runny nose, and cough.

Most doctors discourage the use of all-in-one cold formulas that take aim at every major cold symptom. You may risk side effects from medicines that you may not need; such as insomnia from decongestants, or drowsiness from antihistamines.

If you prefer taking an over-the-counter cold remedy, select a product that targets only the symptom you have. Use anesthetic lozenges for sore throat, a decongestant for congestion, an antihistamine with chlorpheniramine for runny nose, and a cough suppressant with dextromethorphan for a hacking cough. Before taking any medication, talk to your doctor about it, read the label, and consider the side effects. Always follow label directions carefully.

Here are some specific OTC medicines to treat cold symptoms.

Pain Killers

They help to bring down fever and relieve the aches and pains of the common cold. Examples:

  • Acetaminophen (found in Tylenol, Datril, and many other products)
  • Aspirin (Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, and others)

New evidence from Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore has shown that aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) actually increase nasal blockage and reduce the level of virus-fighting antibodies. If you have a headache, ibuprofen (Advil) may be the better choice. If your child has a headache along with a cold, ask your doctor about child-size doses of ibuprofen. (Never give children aspirin without consulting a doctor, because it can contribute to Reye's syndrome, a life-threatening neurological condition.)


These help decrease swelling and inflammation in the nasal cavity. They can provide relief from a stuffy and runny nose. Decongestants are available in pill and liquid form and as nose drops and sprays. 


1. If the spray forms are used for more than three days, they become irritating to nasal membranes, resulting in "rebound congestion" that can be worse than the initial symptoms. So after you've used a nasal spray for a couple of days, switch to a commercial saline solution. Or make your own saline solution: Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a pint of water, then use a nose dropper to drop it in your nose. Gently blow your nose on a tissue.

2. These drugs can cause restlessness, insomnia, and an increased heart rate.


  • Oxymetazoline (found in Drisitrin), 
  • Phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine), phenylpropan- olamine (Congespirin, Triaminic)
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)


Because the sneezing and discomfort of a cold can resemble the symptoms of an allergic reaction, many people use antihistamines, such as those listed below with the mistaken notion that this will make them feel good.

  • Brompheniramine (Dimetane)
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Pyrilamine (Triaminic)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

These medications dry up secretions in the respiratory tract. However, they have not been shown to be effective for the relief of cold symptoms. They are not designed to counteract  viruses. Anti- histamines also commonly cause side effects, including drowsiness and dry mouth. Do not use if you are suffering from a cold.


If at any time during the course of a cold you experience symptoms of respiratory distress, such as rapid breathing, gasping, wheezing, nasal flaring, or a pale or bluish skin color, or if you develop a high fever or unusual lethargy, consult your physician promptly. You may be coming down with a more serious infection, such as pneumonia. 

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