Best Common Cold Treatments and Prevention Steps

Since there is no cure for the common cold and Antibiotics are ineffective unless there’s a bacterial infection, it’s usually at-home care that is needed. 

However, there is so much false and unsubstantiated information swirling around online that it can be difficult to know the best next steps when you or someone you love begins to feel under the weather. 

A common cold that doesn’t require a visit to the doctor is usually signified by a runny nose, sneezing, and congestion. While it can last up to two weeks, symptoms usually clear up in one. If you’re concerned about being contagious, the time period is usually two to three days, however, the best practice is to avoid close contact with others until the symptoms pass. 

On average, adults get about two to four colds a year and kids can get it eight times and more. This is all to say, don’t be alarmed if you or your kids feel under the weather a few times throughout the year, especially during the winter months and back-to-school season. 

For more about the most common kids’ illnesses in the back-to-school season, visit our blog, 5 Most Common Kids’ Illnesses and How to Treat Them. 

Common Cold Treatments

Colds will often clear up on their own without any specific treatments. Plus, as stated earlier, medicine can’t cure a cold. However, it can help ease symptoms such as congestion, headaches, and muscle aches. 

For your kids who may need some symptom relief, we recommend that you give them acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) based on the bottle recommendations for age and weight.  There’s no reason to give over-the-counter medications to children younger than six, especially since there’s little proof these medicines work. 

The most important thing to do when you or your child has a cold is to drink plenty of fluids, get ample rest, and keep a distance from others. In general, the recommended amount of water per day is eight 8-ounce glasses. When you’re sick, you should try to drink as much as possible. 

Unsure what to eat while you’re sick? Download a fridge checklist for Best Foods to Eat When You Have a Cold

The Difference in Common Cold Treatment for Kids and Adults

While the basics for common cold care, such as rest and hydration, are the same for adults and children, there are differences in medication and pain relief. 

For example, Aspirin should not be given to kids under the age of eighteen. As well, decongestants , cough medication, and sleeping aids should only be given to children following the suggestions of your doctor. For teenagers and adults, these over the counter medications can be helpful, just be sure to use as directed. 

For infants, you can use homemade saline nose drops to help clear up congestion. 

Additionally, individuals of any age will always benefit from taking warm showers or baths, keeping the thermostat no lower than 70℉, and having a humidifier in the room. This will help bring more moisture into the throat and lungs and break up congestion. 

How to Prevent Catching a Cold

While the common cold is titled “common” for a reason, there are ways you can minimize how often you catch one and the transfer of it. 

Simple hygiene measures are often all it takes to prevent catching a virus or infection. These measures include: 

  • Hand washing
    • This is an essential and highly effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be wet with water and plain soap and rubbed together for 15 to 30 seconds. It is not necessary to use antibacterial hand soap. Ensure children wash their hands before and after eating and after coughing or sneezing.
  • Use alcohol-based hand rubs to disinfect your hands if a sink is not available. 
    • Hand rubs should be spread over the entire surface of hands, fingers, and wrists until dry and may be used several times. These rubs can be used repeatedly without skin irritation or loss of effectiveness.
  • Avoid people who are sick whenever possible
  • If you’re beginning to feel sick, try to stay home
  • Use a household cleaner that kills viruses, such as phenol/alcohol (Lysol)

At the end of the day, you and your family will likely come down with the common cold a few times a year. However, it’s always important to do what you can to minimize the spread. 

For a detailed guide to keeping your home disinfected, visit our blog, The Benefits of Homemade Cleaning Products in 2020.

When to Visit Your Doctor for Symptoms

You should call your doctor the moment you feel like you or your child have more than a cold. You should also seek medical attention if the symptoms continue to get worse rather than better after a week. 

As well, you should visit your doctor if you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms: 

  • Coughing up a lot of mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual tiredness/fatigue
  • Inability to keep foods/liquids down
  • Increase head, throat, or chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • High fever 
  • Stomach pain

If you’re unsure whether the symptoms you’re experiencing require medical attention, you can always call your doctor and have a quick virtual consultation. 

If symptoms become severe or you can’t get a timely appointment with your doctor, you can visit your local ER Near Me for  treatment. 

Want a list of our favorite foods to eat when you are feeling sick? Download our checklist for the best foods to eat to boost your immune system and fuel your body.

Best Foods to Eat When You Have a Cold