Fluids: Keep well hydrated, a minimum of 8 glasses of water daily is reasonable.
Rest: Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep daily - "baby yourself" with extra rest if possible.
Stop or cut back on smoking: Smokers catch more colds, recover from them more slowly, and are more prone to complications. Learn more about smoking cessation.
Lozenges/cough drops/sore throat sprays: There are many brands, some with "pain numbing" features, but even hard candy can provide some coating, soothing action.
Humidifying the air: Steam in the form of hot showers, a wet towel hung in the room, a pan of water on the radiator, or best yet, a vaporizer/humidifier in your room can help congestion symptoms.
Other treatments: Zinc lozenges, Vitamin C, herbal products such as Echinacea are advertised to treat or prevent colds. While none are likely to cause harm, unless large amounts are taken over a long period, none have been consistently effective in clinical trials.
For nasal/sinus congestion and post nasal drip:
Daytime: Try pseudoephedrine (eg, Sudagest/Sudafed) following package directions. This decongestant pill is the most effective oral decongestant, but it must be requested at stores as it is kept "behind the counter" rather than out on the shelf. Don't take it near bedtime as some people are kept awake by it.
At bedtime: Try decongestant/antihistamine combination (eg, Aprodine/Actifed per directions), which is less likely to interfere with sleep. This is also kept "behind the counter". Antihistamine products used alone for cold symptoms are less helpful for most people because of drying or sedating side effects.
Day or night: Decongestant nasal sprays (e.g., Afrin or generic equivalent, per package directions) can also be very effective for nasal and sinus congestion, but only for 3 days; after that some rebound congestion can occur.
Saline irrigation: Try a Neti Pot or other sinus irrigation system (e.g., McNeil Sinus Rinse) per product instructions, to clear your sinuses and posterior throat of mucus, by rinsing them out with saline solution. Especially for individuals prone to developing sinus infections after a cold, this may be a very helpful technique.
For fever, body aches, headache, sore throat:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) regular strength 325 mg tabs - 2 tabs every 4-6 hours as needed.**
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) extra strength 500 mg
tabs - 2 tabs every 6 hours as needed.**
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin e.g.) over the counter strength - 200 mg tabs - 2 tabs every 4 hours as needed with food, or 3 tabs every 6 hours with food.**
OR as directed by your provider.
**Do not take more than 4000 mg acetaminophen daily or more than 2400 mg ibuprofen daily.
**Some over-the-counter cold products contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen in combination with other products, so be careful to read labels to avoid excessive doses. Similarly, read labels to make sure you know whether you are taking regular or extra strength acetaminophen, as this medicine is toxic at excessive doses.
There is debate among experts about the usefulness of cough suppressants and expectorants for cough that comes along with a cold. Generally, a wet, productive cough that produces mucus is good as it clears secretions. If your cough disturbs your sleep, try a hot drink, elevating your head a little on pillows, and humidifying your room.
An OTC cough medicine with dextromethoraphan ("DM") (eg, Robitusin DM or generic equivalent, per package directions) may help some people who have bothersome dry, spasmodic cough. Guaifenisin (eg, Mucinex, taken per package directions), an expectorant, is available either by itself or as a common ingredient in cough/cold OTC remedies. Some people find this product helps to thin and mobilize mucus.
See your provider if your cough is worsening, keeps you up without relief, or is associated with wheezing or shortness of breath. Other prescription medicine may be indicated. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953.