Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Also take one or more of the following medications:
For fever and pain, Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is generally preferred. Ibuprofen (Advil®) and/or naproxen (Naprosyn®) appear to carry less risk for Reye’s syndrome than aspirin. For other symptoms, over-the-counter cold (OTC) preparations (Nyquil®, Tylenol Cold® & Sinus®, others) can provide significant relief. Be sure to read product labels to find the best cold preparation to match your symptoms and to determine if that medicine is safe for you.
To dry out the nose and relieve nasal obstruction, try a traditional antihistamine (diphenhydramine [Benadryl®], others). All antihistamines are best used for allergy, but they can be helpful for suppressing some viral URI symptoms. Because these products can make you sleepy, avoid driving and other complex tasks when taking these medications. Newly available OTC loratadine (Claritin®) is non-sedating but may not be as effective for suppressing viral URI symptoms.
To relieve a “stuffy,” clogged nose, try an oral decongestant (pseudoephedrine [Sudafed®], others). Note that these products can be associated with insomnia, nervousness, and irritability in some patients. Often decongestants are combined with other drugs (especially antihistamines) in OTC medications. A “-D” at the end of a medication’s name suggests that the medication includes an oral decongestant.
To make blowing your nose easier, take guaifenesin (Robitussin®, Mucofen®, Humibid LA®, Mucinex®, Humibid-e®). These products thin mucous and can help thin thick discolored drainage.
To suppress coughing, take dextromethorphan can be helpful as a cough suppressant.
Prescription anti-flu medications (amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir, oseltamivir) can be used to treat and prevent flu. Typically they must be started within 48 hours of the start of symptoms. These products shorten the severity and duration of the infection, but they can have significant side effects.
Viral infections can be associated with bacterial overgrowth and occasionally lead to a bacterial infection (acute bacterial rhinosinusitis), which typically requires antibiotic therapy. Viral URIs also may worsen asthma symptoms (wheezing) in patients with asthma; such symptoms also require further evaluation and treatment.
Seek medical advice or treatment if:
Wash your hands frequently.
Cold and flu viruses are spread by touching infected persons or objects that have come in contact with the virus and then touching one’s nose or mouth. Frequent handwashing is important to prevent this process. (Inhalation of infected particles in the air also can spread colds/respiratory viral infections.)
Two medicines are approved for prevention of influenza viral infection. Amantadine and rimantadine are approved for prevention of Influenza A and oseltamivir is approved for preventing Influenza A and B in children (age >13 years). Both zanamivir and oseltamivir are indicated for the early treatment of influenza.
|Rare, but if present usually under 101.5oF
|Characteristic 102-104oF, lasts 3-4 days
|Clear, runny nose
|Prominent at outset
|Can be present
|Prominent at outset
|General aches, pains
|Can last up to 2-3 weeks
|Early and prominent
|Chest discomfort, cough
|Mild to moderate
|Common; often severe
|Annual vaccination; antiviral medicines