Do you ever wonder if you have a cold? Or is it just something you think “you caught?” It is so common that we catch a cold and don’t actually know it. There are many ways to know if you have a cold, and many more ways to fix the issue with over-the-counter medications (OTCs).


Background on Colds

Colds are a very common occurrence in the U.S. On average, adults have 2-3 colds per year and children have even more! Colds occur the most around the months of September and October, due to the school year beginning. It’s crucial for parents to monitor their children and make sure that they stay healthy!


How Are Colds Spread?

Colds are spread through any contact. A person who has a cold can transmit the illness through the air via cough or sneeze, contact with a common object, or any exposure to the germ and public. People with weaker immune systems are most prone to catching a cold. This includes those who smoke, have lots of stress, or are sleep deprived. It can’t be stressed enough to promote a healthy immune system to allow your body to fight the bacteria and prevent getting sick.


Some symptoms could include:

–       Sore throat

o   Usually the first symptom!!

–       Sinus pressure

–       Headaches

–       Congestion

–       Inflammation in the nasal-area

–       Excess mucous

–       Fever

–       Body aches


These symptoms could last anywhere from 7-14 days, so it is important to recognize the possibility of a cold and take preventative measures.


Important Information

A cold does not necessarily get cured. The medicine is used to reduce the effect of the symptoms that you might feel. The cold will go away on its own as your body fights the bacteria and adapts to it. A few tips to take note of to prevent catching a cold are to:

–       Wash your hands

–       Use disinfectants (wipes or hand sanitizers)

–       Avoid contact with ill persons



The treatment of a cold can be divided into two categories:

          1) Home remedies

          2) Over-the-counter medicine from a pharmacy


Home Remedies

Here is a list of things you can do at home to feel better if you catch a cold:

–       Drink lots of water

–       REST (super important!!)

–       Eucalyptus oil

–       Humidifiers

–       Vicks® VapoRub for congestion


Over-the-Counter Medications

There are a lot of medications that you can take if you have a cold. The medications can be used to treat different symptoms. For example, if you do not experience a fever, there is no need to take a medication that focuses on lowering your fever such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Motrin® (ibuprofen). With that being said, here is a short list of some commonly found medications that could be used for each of the major symptoms associated with a cold. Children’s versions may be available for each of these as well.





–       Delsym® (good for a dry cough)

–       Mucinex®(good for a productive cough)

–       Halls®


          Nasal Congestion

–       Sudafed®  PE (phenylephrine)

–       Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine)

–       Afrin®  Nasal Spray (may be used up to 3 days at the most)


Runny Nose and Sneezing

–       Benadryl® (diphenhydramine)

–       Zyrtec® (cetirizine)

–       Allegra® (fexofenadine)

–       Claritin® (loratadine)


        Sore Throat

–       Cepacol®

–       Luden’s® Throat Drops


Headaches, Fever, or Body Aches

–       Advil® (ibuprofen)

–       Tylenol® (acetaminophen)


Combination Products

–       Mucinex® D (good for nasal and chest congestion)

–       NyQuil™ Cold & Flu (good for fever, aches, pains, runny nose, and cough)

–       DayQuil™ Cold & Flu (good for fever, aches, pains, congestion, and cough)


Remember to go over your symptoms with your pharmacist to find the best option for you to treat your cold!


This article was written by student pharmacist Sefa Basci.