The common cold is an upper respiratory viral infection. The symptoms may include a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, fatigue, sneezing and headache or body aches. There are no cures for viruses, and antibiotics won't help.
However, you can treat your symptoms so you'll feel better while your body's fighting the virus. Here's what you should do:
- Get lots of rest.
- Drink fluids, which will loosen your mucus and keep you from dehydrating.
- Gargle with warm salt water several times a day to help relieve your sore throat.
- Use lozenges or throat sprays.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Don't smoke, and stay away from smokers. Smoke can make your symptoms worse.
- Use a humidifier to reduce congestion.
- For babies with colds, you can suction mucus out of the nose with a bulb syringe.
Medications that may help relieve your symptoms include the following:
- Analgesics, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, will relieve the pain and fever.
- Antitussives (cough suppressants) will relieve a dry cough.
- Expectorants will help you cough up mucus.
- Decongestant nasal sprays will relieve your nasal symptoms. However, they should be used sparingly because the symptoms sometimes worsen when you stop using them [source: American Academy of Family Physicians].
It's not recommended that children under the age of 6 use cough and cold medications [source: MedlinePlus]. Always consult a doctor before giving any medication to children, even if it's labeled as being specifically for children.
A cold usually lasts about a week, although some symptoms may linger for up to two weeks [source: Nemours]. If your symptoms persist for longer than this, see a doctor to rule our more serious problems, such as pneumonia, bronchitis or strep throat [source: Mayo Clinic].