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Cold Medicine and Treatment: When? What? How?

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#6: What's the best cold medicine for my sore throat?

Drinking lots of fluids and using salt water gargles (made by combining a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of salt) can often be helpful to ease the pain of a sore throat. Some oral medications (such as Tylenol) and medicated lozenges and gargles can also temporarily soothe a sore throat. If your throat is very painful and you have trouble swallowing and fever, see your doctor. You may have strep throat and need antibiotics.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's article on Sore Throat: Cold, Strep Throat, or Tonsillitis?

#7: Are combination cold medicines effective?

Many people find good cold relief with combination cold medicines and treatments. These combination cold medicines often contain a pain reliever, a cough suppressant, and an expectorant to liquefy mucus, making it easier to cough up. In addition, these cold medicines often contain either a decongestant or an antihistamine. Since decongestants can keep you awake, they are usually found in daytime multi-symptom cold medicines. Antihistamines are found in nighttime cold medicines because they make many people sleepy.

If you try a combination cold medicine and treatment, make sure you can safely use the specific ingredients. As an example, if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, avoid combination cold medicines and treatments that have decongestants, as they can increase blood pressure. In addition, if you have asthma or emphysema, talk to your doctor before taking a combination cold medicine and treatment that contains a cough suppressant. This drug may worsen your illness.

#8: How effective are natural cold remedies like zinc, echinacea, and vitamin C?

Some early studies suggested that cold treatments such as zinc may help cut a cold's severity and duration. But other studies show that zinc is no more effective than placebo. Also, several zinc nasal sprays have been linked to a permanent loss of smell leading to a warning from the FDA. The side effects from zinc may outweigh any possible benefits

For in-depth information see, WebMD's article on Zinc for Colds: Lozenges & Nasal Sprays.

Studies on echinacea have been mixed. Two recent ones funded by NCCAM show that it is not effective in treating colds while others show some benefit.

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