Your guide to over-the-counter cough and cold treatments
12/17/2015 5:58 PM
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for treating a cold or respiratory virus. While there is no cure for a viral infection, there are several over-the-counter options for symptom management.
Decongestants like Sudafed can be a good option, but they can elevate blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, this is something you should be aware of. We only recommend using nasal decongestants for three days because they can cause you to become more congested over the long term.
Cough suppressants usually have “DM” in the title, which stands for Dextromethorphan. I recommend taking cough suppressants at night because that’s when drainage going down the back of the throat can make you more miserable. You can also elevate the head of the bed to assist with drainage.
Expectorants like Mucinex help you cough up mucous in your chest. Drink plenty of water when taking them because they can make things dry up (which is good), but you need water to moisturize to break things loose.
It is important to keep tabs on all the different medicines you’re using to avoid overtaking one element or another, especially If you’re using the combination medicine. It’s really not a concern to take a decongestant at the same time as a cough suppressant, because that’s what the cough and cold combination medicines are. Just be sure you’re not taking another over-the-counter or prescription cough and cold medication that has the same elements in it to avoid the risk of overdosing or side effects.
Cough and cold products are not recommended for children under the age of six. You can still give your child Tylenol if they’re more than two months old and ibuprofen if they’re more than six months old.
Other safe options for children include nasal saline and vaporizers. If your child is at least one year old, one teaspoon of honey is recommended for cough as needed. Once your child reaches the six year range, treat them by symptom, avoiding cough and cold combination medicines when you can.
About the Author
Amy Hernandez, MD, is a primary care physician who sees patients at the Live Oak Health Partners clinic in Wimberley, Texas.