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Common Cold Treatments: Find out How to Treat the Common Cold

February 1, 2024


Having a cold is never fun. But the good news is, there are simple and effective ways to get back to feeling your best. From rest and hydration to over-the-counter medicines, there are practical steps that anyone can take to tackle the sniffles.


How does a cold occur?

The cold is caused by viruses, most commonly rhinoviruses. These germs enter your body through your nose, eyes, or mouth. This can happen when someone coughs or sneezes near you, or when you touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your face.

Once the virus gets into your body, it begins to invade the cells in your nose and throat, causing an immune response. This results in the symptoms we associate with a cold, such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, and a sore throat.


How long does a cold last?

For most people, a cold will last for about 7-10 days. However, some symptoms can linger for 14 days or longer.


What are the symptoms of a cold?

The symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Chest and nasal congestion

  • Cough

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • Fatigue

  • Mild fever

  • Body aches


How do I treat a cold?

Because the common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, there is no cure or vaccine for the cold. Your body's immune system must work to eliminate the infection. While your body fights the virus, there are ways to help your immune system and lessen your symptoms.

Try some of these home remedies for the cold:

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Stay hydrated by drinking water

  • Gargle salt water to help a sore throat

  • Relieve congestion using a humidifier (that has been cleaned and properly maintained)

  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods

  • Ease aches and pains with a warm bath


If your symptoms are bothering you despite these home remedies, many over-the-counter medications can help ease your symptoms. Always talk to a pharmacist or your doctor if you have questions about your medications, including over-the-counter drugs.

Over-the-counter treatments for the cold:

  • Nasal rinses, decongestant sprays, saline nose drops, and vapor rubs can help reduce nasal congestion

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can reduce body aches and fever

  • Cough medicines can ease a cough and help you sleep

  • Expectorants can make it easier to cough up mucus if you have chest congestion


Keep in mind that these medicines relieve symptoms but won't cure the cold – your body does that on its own with time and rest.


What should I do if my child has a cold?

If your child is under the age of 2, over-the-counter medications are not recommended. Instead, try using natural home remedies such as rest, hydration, healthy foods, warm baths, humidifiers, and saline nose drops.


How do I protect myself and others from a cold?

On average, adults get 2-3 colds a year, and children catch it more frequently. While the cold is highly contagious, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of catching or spreading it.


Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Take 30 seconds to scrub every part of your hands.


Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold or respiratory symptoms. Stay home if you're sick.


Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.


Cover your mouth when you sneeze, and encourage others to do the same.


Clean toys and surfaces regularly to help remove viruses from the objects you touch at home and at work.


When should I see a doctor?

“Most cases of the common cold can be treated effectively at home,” says Dr. Robert Biernbaum, “but you should talk to a doctor if you’ve been feeling unwell for more than two weeks, you have a fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or your symptoms get much worse.”


If you have chest pain and difficulty breathing, get emergency medical attention immediately.


Still not feeling better? Stop in or schedule a virtual visit today!

With over 180 convenient urgent care locations, WellNow is nearby to be seen by a provider for your cold or flu symptoms. With a virtual visit you can seek advice and treatment options from the comfort of your own home. Get started now!

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Information contained in this blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The content is not meant to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition. Always refer to the personalized information given to you by your doctor or contact us directly.