Colds - Topic Overview
What can you do for a cold? continued...
Don't take cold medicine that uses several drugs to treat
different symptoms. For example, don't take medicine that contains both a
decongestant for a stuffy nose and a cough medicine. Treat each symptom on its
A nasal decongestant spray can help your stuffy nose, but
make sure you don't use it for more than 3 days in a row. You could get a
"rebound" effect, which makes the mucous membranes in your nose swell up even
Cough preparations can cause problems for people who have certain health problems, such as asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, or an enlarged prostate (BPH). Cough preparations may also interact with sedatives, certain antidepressants, and other medicines. Read the package carefully, or ask your pharmacist or doctor to help you choose.
Cough suppressants can stifle breathing. Use them with caution if you are older than 60 or if you have chronic respiratory problems.
Be careful with cold medicines. They may not be safe for young children, so check the label first. If you do give these medicines to a child, always follow the directions about how much to give based on the child’s age and weight. For more information, see Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
When should you call a doctor?
Call your doctor
- You have trouble breathing.
- You have a fever of
104°F (40°C) or higher.
- You have new symptoms
that are not part of a cold, like a stiff neck or shortness of
- You cough up yellow, green, or bloody
- Mucus from your nose is thick like pus or is
- You have pain in your face, eyes, or teeth that does not
get better with home treatment, or you have a red area on your face or around
- Your cold seemed to be getting better after a few days
but is now getting worse with new symptoms.
How can you prevent colds?
There are several
things you can do to help prevent colds:
- Wash your hands often.
- Be extra
careful in winter and when you are around people with colds.
your hands away from your face. Your nose, eyes, and mouth are the most likely
places for germs to enter your body.
- Eat well, and get plenty of
sleep and exercise. This keeps your body strong so it can fight
- Do not smoke. Smoking makes it easier to get a cold and
harder to get rid of one.