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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Colds: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)


Alternate Names : Upper Respiratory Infection, URI, Common COLD, Viral Pharyngitis, Viral URI

Colds | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the infection?

Colds are generally treated by addressing the person's symptoms. Bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent some complications. Antibiotics do not work against the viruses and can reduce the body's ability to fight viruses. Medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can help reduce fever and muscle aches. Because of the risk of a serious condition called Reye's syndrome, children should never be given aspirin.

Medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers safe and effective for treatment of colds include:

  • nasal decongestants in the form of sprays, drops, or oral medications. These medications open up the nasal passageways and make breathing easier.
  • cough suppressants in the form of oral medications, throat lozenges, ointments to be rubbed on the chest, and ointments used in humidifiers and vaporizers. These medications can relieve coughs caused by an irritated throat.
  • expectorants, which are taken by mouth to loosen mucus and make it easier to cough up phlegm
  • clemastine fumarate, which is currently the only antihistamine approved for cold symptoms. Antihistamines generally dry up nasal secretions.
  • A decongestant called phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, which is found in many over-the-counter cold remedies, has recently been linked to strokes in young women. The FDA has requested that manufacturers stop producing medications containing PPA. In view of the FDA's public health advisory, anyone who has products at home containing phenylpropanolamine should discard them.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects of fever-fighting medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen include stomach upset and allergic reactions. Other medications used to treat a cold may cause drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, or allergic reactions.

    What happens after treatment for the infection?

    Cold symptoms usually go away completely in 7 to 10 days. Some adults and children may have secondary ear infections or sinus infections.

    How is the infection monitored?

    Cold symptoms usually clear up within 7 to 10 days. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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    Colds: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: James Broomfield, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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