The Most Effective Cold Medicine for Your Symptoms

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


The common cold can be a miserable experience. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and a sore throat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual average number of cases of the common cold is about 39 million.

This number has been steadily decreasing since the 1950s when there were about 54 million cases. The decrease is probably due to improved medical care and a better understanding of the virus.

Treatment usually involves rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications. For most people, the common cold is just a minor inconvenience. However, for some, it can be a major source of misery. However, there is a lot of confusion about which over-the-counter cold medications are safe to use and which are not.

Some of the most common over-the-counter cold medications include decongestants, cough suppressants, and antihistamines.

Common Cold Medicines Types

As the weather starts to turn cooler, many people start to feel the symptoms of the common cold. Is it time to worry?

There are plenty of medicines available to help you get through the cold season. There are many different types of common cold medicines, and it can be hard to know which one is right for you.

You should probably take some over-the-counter medicine to help relieve your symptoms of a cold. But what are the best medicines to take for a common cold?

Over-the-counter cold remedies can be helpful in relieving symptoms, but they will not cure a cold or shorten the duration of the illness.

Additionally, some cold remedies can have side effects, so it is important to read the label carefully before taking them.

Pain Killers

A pain reliever can help reduce the intensity of the symptoms of the common cold, such as a runny nose, congestion, and a sore throat.

Additionally, they can help ease the pain caused by a fever.

If you experience pain during the cold season, there are many over-the-counter pain relievers that you can use. Some of these pain relievers are available in pharmacies and grocery stores.

Some of the painkillers or fever relievers that can be used for the common cold are:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • NSAIDs: ibuprofen (Advil), Diclofenac, naproxen (Naprosyn),
  • Side Effects: Gastritis


There are many different cold medicines available over the counter, and it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. However, there are some general things to keep in mind when choosing cold medicine.

First, consider what symptoms you are experiencing and choose a medicine that targets those symptoms.

For example, if you are suffering from nasal congestion, you might want to choose a medicine that contains a decongestant.

  • Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
  • Nasal sprays: Phenylephrine (Sinex), Naphazoline (Privine), Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
  • Side effects: Nasal polyps, nasal bleeding, and rebound congestion

(Rebound congestion is a result of overusing decongestants. It is recommended not to use decongestants more than three times in a row.)

Antihistamines for the Common Cold

There are many different types of antihistamines that can be used to treat a common cold. These medications work by blocking the action of histamine in the body, which is responsible for causing allergic reactions.

Histamine is released when you have an allergic reaction, and it causes symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, a runny nose, and coughing.

In the common cold, histamine is released as a result of the release of foreign materials from the viruses.

Antihistamines can be taken orally (as tablets), or they can be inhaled as a mist or sprayed into the nose.

There are several different types of antihistamines available on the market today.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

It’s an antihistamine that can help relieve symptoms of the common cold. It’s available in a variety of different forms and is used to treat allergies, hay fever, and more.

The main ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine hydrochloride, and it works by blocking histamine receptors in your body. It also reduces swelling.

Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Zyrtec is another common cold medication that is used to treat symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, postnasal drip, and other related symptoms.

It helps reduce your chances of getting sick by blocking certain chemical reactions that cause you to become ill during an infection like the common cold.

  • Doxylamine succinate (Unisom)
  • Chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Cetirizine hydrochloride (Zyrtec)

Loratadine (Claritin)

Loratadine is a cold medicine that is a non-drowsy decongestant that helps loosen congestion and prevent stuffiness.

It’s available over the counter without a prescription, but you should always consult your doctor before taking any medication if you have asthma or other breathing issues. Side effects of antihistamines: sedation, nasal congestion

Cough Suppressants

Cough suppressants are medications that help to fight a cough. They can be taken by mouth or as a nasal spray and are used to treat the symptoms of a dry or tickly cough.

Cough suppressants are not only used to treat coughs but also to treat symptoms of the common cold in order to prevent them.

These cough medicines contain decongestants, antihistamines, and expectorants that are designed to relieve congestion and suppress your runny nose too.

Dextromethorphan (Vicks DayQuil Cough, Delsym, Robitussin Cough)

When it comes to cold medicine, there are some things you need to know about dextromethorphan.

It is a cough suppressant and an anti-nausea medication that is used by millions of people every year.

Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant and decongestant that works by blocking the signaling of your cough receptors.

It also reduces swelling in your throat and helps to loosen mucus in your airways, which can help you breathe easier.

Side effects: headache, abdominal pain, dizziness


Expectorants for cough are a type of medicine that can help ease your symptoms of a cough. They work by thinning out mucus in the airways and making it easier for your lungs to cough up the mucus.

Guaifenesin (Robitussin, Mucinex, Robafen)

This is an expectorant cough medicine that is used to temporarily suppress the cough reflex and make it easier to clear the throat.

This medication works by relaxing the muscles in the bronchial tree and making them less sensitive to nerve impulses. Guaifenesin is available as a syrup or an oral pill.

Symptomatic Treatment

Medicine for Rhinorrhoea or Running Nose

A runny nose is a common problem for children and adults alike. It can be caused by a cold, allergies, or sinus problems. In order to treat a runny nose, an antihistamine may be effective

  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Saline nasal sprays and decongestants may also help with relief from congestion that causes this condition as well as inflammation in the nasal passages, which can lead to pain in the head and face region.

Medicine for Stuffed Nose

A stuffy nose, it can make it hard to breathe and can cause snoring. A stuffy nose may also make it difficult to sleep or concentrate.

Over-the-counter medications like decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays are the most common treatments for a stuffy nose.

Medicine for Sneezing

Sneezing is the most common symptom of a cold or flu. Sneezing can be uncomfortable and unattractive, but it can also be a sign that your body is working hard to get rid of the virus.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or Loratadine (Claritin) cold medicine is a type of medication that can help you with your symptoms.

It contains ingredients like antihistamines, which help dry up mucus in your nose, and menthol, which helps soothe nasal passages.

These medications are available over the counter at most pharmacies.

Medicine for Fever

Fever is a common symptom of the common cold, and in many cases, it can be treated with over-the-counter medication.

If fever is present, up to a maximum of 4 doses per 24 hours if fever is present, at 6-hour intervals.

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and diclofenac can also be taken for fever, but they do induce gastritis in some.

Medicines for Body Aches

Body aches like muscle aches and joint pains, including headaches, are best relieved by NSAIDs (Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen).

If you have trouble with gastritis with NSAIDs, you can try Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Medicines for Sore Throat

If you have a sore throat, there are a few things you can do to help it feel better.

First, drink lots of fluids. You should drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water each day to help your body flush out any excess mucus and congestion in your throat.

Next, keep hydrated with an oral rinse that contains salt. This will help reduce the swelling around your tonsils and prevent further irritation of the lining of your throat.

-Honey with ginger and lemon can ease your mucus in the throat. Honey has antimicrobial properties too..

The doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), which should help reduce the discomfort caused by this cold.

Zinc lozenges too can help with an irritated throat.

If there is a pain in swallowing, tonsillitis might be the cause. It is best to show this to a doctor to rule out bacterial tonsillitis.

Post-nasal drip can cause frequent coughs and throat irritation. Thus, decongestant nasal sprays, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), or loratadine pills will help to reduce the post-nasal drips.

Medicines for Cold and Cough

Coughing is a common symptom of the common cold and can be caused for multiple reasons. The most common causes of coughing in the common cold are:

  • sore throat
  • recurrent colds
  • respiratory infections
  • allergies
  • post nasal drips

Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan (Vicks Dayquil Cough, Delsym) can help to reduce cough reflex, while if you are having a dry cough, expectorants like Mucinex and Robafen (Guaifenesin) will breakdown mucus and help you cough.

Medicines for Antibiotics

The common cold is caused by a virus. There is no use in prescribing antibiotics for the common cold.

The first line of defense against the common cold is to keep yourself hydrated and take in as much vitamin C as you can tolerate.

You can also try gargling with warm salt water or taking vitamin C supplements.

When to See the Medical Professional

If you feel like your symptoms are getting worse, you should seek medical attention right away. Usually, the common cold will subside in 7 to 10 days.

If you are still suffering from symptoms, there might be a secondary bacterial infection.

If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, it’s not too late to call your doctor:

  • Headache with sinus pressure
  • Fever higher than 101°F (38°C)
  • Sore throat with difficulty swallowing (tonsillitis)
  • Earache with discharge
  • Difficulty in breathing, chest pain and pink-colored sputum(pneumonia)
  • Dizziness, vertigo, neck stiffness, or light sensitivity (meningitis)

TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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