How do I Choose the Best Common Cold Medicines?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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To select the best common cold medicines for you or your family, choose medications that treat your exact symptoms. It's best not to take medicines that contain drugs that treat symptoms you do not have. For example, if your cold symptoms include runny nose and sneezing, all you should need is an antihistamine. It's not a good idea to take a fever reducer when fever is not present, so you might not wish to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen unless you have significant discomfort or fever.

Common cold medicines come in various formulas for children and adults. Very young children should take a medicine intended for their age. If you are giving an adult formula cold remedy to a child, read the directions and follow them carefully to ensure proper dosing.

If you're suffering from more than one common cold complaint, there are medicines that may treat all of your symptoms. Labels will specify which ingredients are used and what symptoms they will treat. If you have a stuffy nose, headache, and sore throat, you would do best with a common cold medicine that has a decongestant, as well as an analgesic pain reliever.


There are natural and homeopathic common cold medicines. These might create fewer drug interactions, allergic reactions, or unpleasant side effects. If you must use a medication that contains some type of drug such as an antihistamine, there are formulas that are less likely to cause side effects like drowsiness. If this is a concern, look for common cold medicines that do not cause drowsiness.

If you have developed a cough and require a cough medicine, you need to find one that is the correct formula. If you have a dry cough, you will probably want to treat that with a cough suppressant formula. If, however, you have a congested cough that produces phlegm, or mucus, it is typically best not to suppress such a cough. For productive coughs with congestion, it is best to take an expectorant. This will help loosen chest and bronchial secretions to make your cough more productive.

Regardless of which medications you choose, you should always read warning labels carefully on packages. The labels will give you specific dosing information, as well as information about potential drug interactions or allergy warnings. If in doubt, be sure to ask your pharmacist for more information.



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