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Cold Symptom Relief. By Our October Student Pharmacist, Nadia Szymanski.

person with cold

With cold and flu season on its way, there are a few important things to know about the common cold.

How do we know if we have a cold or the flu?

Colds generally begin with a sore throat for a day or two, followed by nasal congestion or a runny nose with a cough by day four or five. Children may experience a low grade fever, but fever is not very common in adults with a cold. However, fevers above 101°F and body aches are common with the flu. Cold symptoms are milder than flu symptoms and generally clear up within a week, whereas the flu may last for a few weeks.


We can protect ourselves from the flu by getting a flu shot, but what can we do about a cold?

The most important step in prevention of a cold (and the flu) is to practice good hand hygiene. Good hygiene includes sneezing into your arm instead of your hand, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without clean hands, and washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizer. Good handwashing practices include using warm water and rubbing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.

Symptom Relief

The cold is caused by a virus so antibiotics will not work, but, within a week or so, your body’s immune system will be able to fight off the virus. In general, getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated by drinking enough fluids will help your body’s ability to recover. However, during that recovery time, the symptoms of a cold may really drag you down and make you miserable. There are several options that can help alleviate your symptoms as your body fights off the cold. It is important to note that these medications do not shorten the length of time that you are sick, but help relieve the symptoms of a cold.

  • Pain or Fever

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen may be taken to help reduce fever and lessen discomfort from a sore throat, ear pain, or sinus pressure.

  • Sore Throat

Sore throats can be soothed in a variety of ways: ice chips, popsicles, warm beverages, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not use lozenges in young children as they are a choking hazard). You can also use a cool mist vaporizer to help add moisture into the air to soothe your throat.

  • Ear Pain

Placing a warm moist cloth over the affected ear may help to relieve some of the pain.

  • Runny Nose

If you are experiencing a runny nose, make sure to increase your fluid intake and get plenty of rest.

  • Congestion

If you are having trouble with congestion, you can use a cool mist vaporizer or steam from the shower to replenish the moisture in your nose and to loosen the mucus. Nasal saline spray will also add moisture to your nose and may help loosen the mucus. You can use warm compresses over your nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure. There are also over-the-counter nasal decongestants, such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine, that may help relieve the congestion. If you have high blood pressure, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist before using these nasal decongestant products.

  • Cough

For coughs, you can help moisten and soothe your throat and airways with a cool mist vaporizer or with steam from the shower. Lozenges or honey may also help with a cough (do not use lozenges in young children and do not give honey to children less than one year old).

For children under 18 years old, please talk with your doctor or pharmacist about cough and cold medications before using them.

For more information about symptom relief, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/symptom-relief.html

person with cold 2



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