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Treating The Common Cold

December 21, 2012; 10:29 AM ET
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There is no cure for the common cold, but you can get relief from your cold symptoms by

- Resting in bed

- Drinking plenty of fluids

- Gargling with warm salt water or using throat sprays or lozenges for a scratchy or sore throat

- Using petroleum jelly for a raw nose

- Taking aspirin or acetaminophen--Tylenol, for example--for headache or fever

A word of caution: Several studies have linked aspirin use to the development of Reye's syndrome in children recovering from flu or chickenpox. Reye's syndrome is a rare but serious illness that usually occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. It can affect all organs of the body but most often the brain and liver. While most children who survive an episode of Reye's syndrome do not suffer any lasting consequences, the illness can lead to permanent brain damage or death. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and teenagers not be given aspirin or medicine containing aspirin when they have any viral illness such as the common cold.

Gennadiy Poznyakov

Over-the-counter cold medicines

Nonprescription cold remedies, including decongestants and cough suppressants, may relieve some of your cold symptoms but will not prevent or even shorten the length of your cold. Moreover, because most of these medicines have some side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia, or upset stomach, you should take them with care. Questions have been raised about the safety of nonprescription cold medicines in children and whether the benefits justify any potential risks from the use of these products in children, especially in those under 2 years of age. Recently, a Food and Drug Administration panel recommended that nonprescription cold medicines not be given to children under the age of 6, because cold medicines do not appear to be effective for these children and may not be safe.

Over-the-counter antihistamines

Nonprescription antihistamines may give you some relief from symptoms such as runny nose and watery eyes, which are symptoms commonly associated with colds.

Antibiotics

Never take antibiotics to treat a cold because antibiotics do not kill viruses. You should use these prescription medicines only if you have a rare bacterial complication, such as sinusitis or ear infection. In addition, you should not use antibiotics "just in case," because they will not prevent bacterial infections.

Steam

Although inhaling steam may temporarily relieve symptoms of congestion, health experts have found that this approach is not an effective treatment.

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