Primary Care

Which Cold Medicine Should I Use?

When that pesky cold refuses to go away, there are a lot of remedies and medicines to choose from. We have a list of what works best based on your symptoms.

Jan. 12, 2024 5   min read

Senior man choosing medication in a pharmacy store

Having a cold is a frustrating thing to deal with, no matter the season. Sometimes you can manage the symptoms without taking any medicine, but it may get to a point where you need to use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to get some relief.

Below you can learn about types of available over-the-counter cold medicines, when to use each type, and when you should see a provider to get more treatment.

Get The Care You Need Now

Cold symptoms

Symptoms of the common cold are usually a stuffed or runny nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, and a headache. If you have these symptoms along with a fever, body aches or chills, you should test for the flu or COVID-19. Since colds are caused by viruses, medications can’t cure them.

OTC cold medicines are designed to help relieve the symptoms. Different ingredients in a cold medicine will treat specific symptoms of a cold.

Some of the types of medicines and the symptoms they relieve include:

  • Antihistamines: Dry out runny noses and lessen sneezing
  • Cough suppressants: Ease coughs
  • Expectorants: Loosen mucus to allow it to be coughed up
  • Nasal decongestants: Unclog stuffed up noses
  • Pain relievers: Lessen headaches, ease sore throats, lighten general pain

Always read the labels on the medication you are taking. There is information about how certain medications interact with one another, as well as age limitations for children. Failing to pay attention to these labels could result in serious health problems.

Taking supplements

Taking supplements such as Vitamin C, Echinacea, or zinc to treat cold symptoms is not harmful, but it is important to note that they are not clinically proven to provide relief in the same way as OTC medicines.

Non-medication remedies

There are several home remedies that can be used to relieve symptoms of a cold. If you prefer to avoid medicine or want to complement it with natural remedies, consider these options:

  • Drinking warm/hot tea to relieve sore throat pain
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Gargling with salt water to relieve sore throat pain
  • Getting more sleep than usual
  • Using humidifiers to keep air moist
  • Using saline nasal sprays

When to seek medical attention

While most colds go away on their own with rest, there are times when you should consult a healthcare provider – especially if any of the following starts to happen:

  • If you have a fever lasting more than 3 days
  • If cold symptoms last more than 7-10 days
  • If you experience difficulty breathing
  • If symptoms worsen or new ones develop

People want to know how to get over a cold fast, but most of the time, the only answer is to give your body the rest it needs to get healthy again.

NEXT STEPS Set Up A Virtual Urgent Care Appointment

Our providers are available 7 days a week to diagnose and treat common illnesses from the comfort of your home, or wherever you are. The average wait time is about 10 minutes, and there is no need to be a current patient or have a MyCare account.

Get Started Now
primary care icon