Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your cold go away faster, but can help you feel better. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under age 4.
Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold.
Many alternative treatments have been tried for colds, such as vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea. Talk to your doctor before trying any herbs or supplements.
The fluid from your runny nose will become thicker and may turn yellow or green within a few days. This is normal, and not a reason for antibiotics.
Most cold symptoms usually go away within a week. If you still feel sick after 7 days, see your health care provider to rule out a sinus infection, allergies, or other medical problem.
Colds are the most common trigger of wheezing in children with asthma.
Fashner J, Ericson K, Werner S. Treatment of the common cold in children and adults. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(2):153-159.
Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001364.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.