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Best Cold Medicine and Remedies

Updated on August 31, 2012

Choosing the right cold medicine can be confusing. There are shelves and shelves of medicines that treat all sorts of symptoms.

Here you will find a guide to cold symptoms and the best medicines to take to treat the symptoms. There is also information to help you decide whether you should go to the doctor for your cold.

Keep in mind that cold medicines aren't going to cure the cold, they will just alleviate the symptoms.


The best thing to take when you feel congested is Mucinex (Guaifenesin). It is an expectorant that thins mucus and help to flush it out by loosening it.

It may cause a bit more drainage, especially when you first start taking it, because it is actually clearing out the mucus.

If you are having excess mucus and runny nose during the cold Mucinex can also help. It can dry up the mucus.

The Best General Cold Medicines

For the relief of general cold symptoms, these are the best medicines:

  • Theraflu
  • Tylenol Cold
  • Sudafed
  • DayQuil
  • Alka Seltzer Cold


If you are having a dry cough and need to soothe it, try taking a cough suppressant. Sucking on cough drops can also help to ease a cough. Honey and lemon are natural cough suppressants, so you can also try drinking lemon water with a bit of honey.

NyQuil is the best medicine to help with nighttime cough. It has a sleep aid that will work to keep you asleep so you won't wake up coughing as much.

Some people also find that rubbing mentholated oil on their feet stops coughing, especially during the night while they are sleeping.

If you are coughing up a lot of mucus (wet cough), take Mucinex to help dry up the mucus.

Runny Nose

Nasal saline sprays are good to use when you have a cold because they aid in flushing out the virus and bacteria from the nasal passages.

Antihistamines will help to stop a runny nose, but keep in mind that it will dry up the mucus which may not be the best thing. You need the mucus to flow to get rid of the bug.

Mucinex is actually good to take with a runny nose as well as congestion. It will help to flush the mucus out and get rid of it, not just dry it up like with antihistamines.

Guide to OTC Cold Medicines

Aches and Pains

When the aches and pains from a cold are bad enough that you really need to take something, a pain reliever like Tylenol or Aspirin can be good. Pain relievers also alleviate some of the inflammation caused by the virus.

Many cold medicines already have pain reliever added, so check before you take anything else so that you don't end up overdosing on pain relievers.

When to See a Doctor

Typically, there is no need to go to the doctor for a cold. There isn't much that doctors can do for general colds.

Antibiotics aren't going to help unless you have a bacteria infection. They won't help for a virus, which is what the common cold is.

You should go to the doctor if the cold lasts for more than a week or so. Or if the cold gets worse after the first few days. If your symptoms are very severe, you may also want to go to the doctor. You should also consult a doctor when very young children and infants get a cold.

There is prescription medicine (Tamiflu) that will treat the flu virus but it has to be started within two days of the first sign of symptoms.

If the symptoms you are experiencing may be strep throat (sore throat, fever, trouble swallowing), you may want to go to a doctor as well for a strep test. Antibiotics will help with strep throat.

Oregano oil is a natural antibiotic and has anti-inflammatory properties, so taking it when you have a cold can help to fight the cold off quicker and can keep you from developing a sinus infection from the mucus.


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    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      A useful hub with good info on different cold remedies. Voted up and useful.