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Head Cold: Remedies and Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 02, 2020

A head cold, also known as the common cold or head congestion, is a viral nose and throat infection. It’s often a mild sickness that can be treated at home.

The most common symptoms of a head cold include:

●A fever of 100 degrees F or higher

●Chills (feeling cold without a cause)

●Headache

●Sore muscles

●Fatigue

●Cough

●Runny nose

●Stuffiness (swollen tissue in the lining of your nose)

●Sore throat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that adults will get the common cold two to three times per year, while children may have colds more than six times a year. 

Remedies and Treatments for a Head Cold

These remedies won’t make your cold go away, but they will ease your symptoms. Because it’s a virus, a head cold can’t be treated by antibiotics.

Here are some remedies that you can use to relieve your head cold symptoms: 

Medication

Taking an acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) will help reduce your fever and relieve muscle aches. Many medical professionals suggest that you don’t use aspirin to relieve head cold symptoms.

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines will help reduce cough and congestion. Cough drops and throat sprays can help relieve a sore throat. Read the labels and make sure you aren’t taking too much of one drug. 

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water, juice, warm broth, or warm lemon water with honey. Chicken soup and tea are other throat-soothing options. The warm water helps ease congestion and prevent dehydration.

Rest

Your body needs plenty of rest to recover from a head cold. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a head cold.  

Add Moisture to the Air

Using a humidifier will add moisture to the air and help loosen congestion. Add water daily, don’t let it run dry.  

When to See a Doctor

Head colds often get better in 3 to 4 days and can be treated at home. But if you experience the following symptoms, you should visit a doctor

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden chest or abdominal pain
  • Abrupt dizziness
  • Start acting strangely
  • Severe vomiting occurs
  • Your symptoms get worse and last longer than seven to ten days

Contact a doctor immediately if your child starts experiencing:

● Increased headaches

● Shortness of breath

● Earache

● Severe throat soreness

● Lethargy

● A high fever lasting more than a day

● Chest or stomach pains 

Remedies for Children

Children experience more head colds each year than adults. This is because their immune system isn’t fully developed and they’re in close contact with other children at school or daycare.

Head cold symptoms can last long in children, and it may be difficult to see their symptoms because they may not be able to describe what they’re feeling.

Your child may run a mild fever, have a runny or stuffy nose, feel very tired, and/or have a sore throat. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can start treating them for a head cold. 

The following are remedies for children with a head cold:

  • Run a warm bath or have them lie on a heating pad
  • Put a dab of petroleum jelly under the nose to soothe raw skin
  • Run a humidifier in their room to increase moisture
  • For children over 6, hard candy or cough drops relieve sore throat
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids. Chicken soup is a comforting way to give your child fluids

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Common colds: protect yourself and others.”

John Hopkins Medicine: “Common Cold.”

Kids Health: “Colds.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cold remedies: what works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt.”

Mayo Clinic: “Common cold.”

MedlinePlus: “How to treat the common cold at home.”

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