Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

I’ve Got a Cold: What Can I Do?

Font Size

What's the best treatment for a cold?

There is no cure for the common cold. The most important thing you can do is drink a lot of fluids to keep your body hydrated. This will help prevent another infection from setting in. Avoid drinks like coffee, tea, and colas with caffeine. They may rob your system of fluids. As for eating, follow your appetite. If you're not really hungry, try eating simple foods like white rice or broth.

Chicken soup is comforting, plus the steam helps break up nasal congestion. Ginger seems to settle an upset stomach. A hot toddy may help you sleep, but beware of mixing alcohol with other cold remedies.

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

Prevent Flu: Don’t Be Touchy

Resist the urge. Little habits -- touching eyes, putting finger to nose, biting nails -- give the flu virus a welcome mat into your system. A day or two later, when the first signs of flu hit you, you'll wonder -- how did I get the flu? When avoiding the flu, you've got to resist those habits. "These are bad habits for many people," says Robert Schwartz, MD, chairman of family medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "But they are the main way a virus gets into your system, via the...

Read the Prevent Flu: Don’t Be Touchy article > >

Over-the-counter cold medicines can offer relief from aches and fever. However, doctors no longer believe in suppressing low-grade fever except in very young and very old people, or people with certain medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. Low-grade fever helps the body fight off infection by suppressing the growth of viruses or bacteria and by activating the immune system.

  • Aspirin. Young people and children should not take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.
  • Decongestants can help make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose. Use for no more than two or three days.
  • Saline nasal sprays can also open breathing passages and may be used freely.
  • Cough preparations are not hugely effective. For minor coughs, water and fruit juices probably help the most. The FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under age 4.
  • Gargling with salt water can help relieve a sore throat.

How effective are natural remedies like zinc, echinacea, and vitamin C?

Taking zinc, either as a syrup or lozenge, through the first few days of a cold may shorten the misery of an upper respiratory infection, according to a review of 15 studies on the subject. The review also found that zinc also appeared to prevent colds in people who used it over the course of about five months.

Some studies show that zinc nasal sprays help cut a cold's severity and duration. The theory? Zinc sprays may coat the cold virus and prevent it from attaching to nasal cells where they enter the body. But other studies show that zinc is no more effective than placebo. Recent, well-done studies on echinacea show that it is not effective in preventing colds. However, in one study, 120 people with cold-like symptoms took 20 drops of echinacea every two hours for 10 days and had briefer colds than others.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat