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The 4 pillars of treatment for the common cold

There is no treatment that can cure or shorten the duration of the common cold. 1,2 Antibiotics are only indicated for bacterial infections and are useless against a viral cold. Treatment is usually focussed on relieving the symptoms while your body fights the infection. 1,2 Symptomatic treatment may shorten time spent away from work or school and may relieve discomfort. 3

Nose

Throat

Chest

Head/Body

Runny or blocked nose?

Click here to find out what medications will help relieve your symptoms.

Scratchy or sore throat?

Click here to find out what medications will help relieve your symptoms.

Wet or dry cough?

Click here to find out what medications will help relieve your symptoms.

Fever, headache, body aches and pains?

Click here to find out what medications will help relieve your symptoms.

Mild ColdSevere Cold

Are you a high-risk patient?

There are some patients that should be seen by a doctor before taking over-the-counter cold and cough medication

When should you see a doctor with a cold?

Most colds can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications but sometimes complications can occur that warrant visiting the doctor

Runny nose and congestion

  • Nasal spray & drop decongestants: applied directly in the nose and therefore work faster and stronger (can cause dependence so should not to be used for longer than 3 days!) 1,2
  • Oral decongestants: these medications help to open inflamed nasal passages, making breathing easier 1
  • Saline sprays & drops: can also be helpful to relieve runny nose and congestion 2
  • Mucolytics: these medications help to make mucus less sticky so that it is easier to blow out 4

Need relief from a runny and congested nose?

Speak to your local Medicare pharmacy healthcare professionals as they are trained to guide you to the correct treatment for your symptoms

Sore Throat

  • Lozenges: sucking a medicated lozenge may help to moisturise a dry mouth while numbing and disinfecting a sore throat. Their soothing effect may last longer than sprays but they present a choking hazard in young children so should not be used in children under 3-4 years. 5
  • Throat sprays: coat and soothe the back of the throat with numbing and antiseptic medications but they should not be used in children younger than 6 years 5
  • Oral rinses (gargles): may contain disinfectant and numbing agents and are often used for throat pain as well as oral hygiene. Most children find it difficult to gargle and tend to swallow the liquid so they should not be used in children younger than 6-8 years. 5

Need relief from a sore throat?

Speak to your local Medicare pharmacy healthcare professionals as they are trained to guide you to the correct treatment for your symptoms

Coughs

Cough mixtures: contain one or more medications that perform different functions. 4

  • Bronchodilators: help to ‘open up the chest’ if your chest feels tight or if you feel short of breath
  • Suppressants: help to reduce dry, irritating coughs
  • Expectorants: stimulate coughing to help clear mucus from the airways
  • Mucolytics: make mucus less sticky so that it is easier to cough up

Generally cough mixtures should not be used in children under 2 years of age. 3

Need relief from coughs?

Speak to your local Medicare pharmacy healthcare professionals as they are trained to guide you to the correct treatment for your symptoms

Pain and fever

  • Paracetamol: medication that lower fevers and reduces pain. 2,3
  • Anti-inflammatories: medication that lower fevers and reduces pain and inflammation. 2,6 The anti-inflammatory effect may also help to relieve nasal congestion. 6

NB! Aspirin should not be given to children with a cold as it can cause serious complications. 1

Need relief from pain and fever?

Speak to your local Medicare pharmacy healthcare professionals as they are trained to guide you to the correct treatment for your symptoms

References for home page: 1. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Common Cold. [online] 2016 [cited 2018 Mar 19]. Available from: URL: https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/diseases-and-conditions/pathology/common-cold. 2. Sexton DJ, McClain MT. Patient education: The common cold in adults (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate [online] 2018 Jan 25 [cited 2018 Mar 19]. Available from: URL: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-common-cold-in-adults-beyond-the-basics. 3. BMJ Best Practice. Common cold. [online] [cited 2018 Mar 19]. Available from: URL: http://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-us/252/pdf/252.pdf. 4. Farrer F. Making sense of the active ingredients in couch preparations. SA Pharmacist’s Assist 2010;10(2):6-12. 5. Farrer F. Sprays and lozenges for sore throats. S Afr Pharm J 2013;80(5):8-11.  6. Buensalido JAL, Wallace MR. Rhinovirus (RV) Infection (Common Cold). MedScape [online] 2017 Sep 11 [cited 2018 Mar 19]. Available from: URL: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/227820-overview.

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