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Colds (cont.)

What Are Treatment Options for a Cold?

Many people may see their doctor because they think antibiotics can treat a cold. Antibiotics may kill bacteria but have no effect on viruses that usually cause colds.

Don't expect the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic for a cold, even if one is requested. Antibiotics may not prevent bacterial infections developing from a cold, such as sinusitis or ear infections, even if taken "just in case" and may lead to diarrhea or the development of more serious problems such as infection with Clostridium difficile or allow some organisms to become resistant to the antibiotics.

Are There Alternative Treatments for Colds?

Alternative treatments claim to either prevent colds or reduce the severity and length of time of symptoms. Some of the major alternative treatments include zinc compounds, vitamin C, and Echinacea supplements. Although there are some publications on these compounds, many clinicians consider the results inconclusive. Others suggest if the compounds are not used to excess, they may be helpful. Studies in 2012 suggested zinc may reduce symptoms by about one to two days but may produce a metallic taste or cause hearing difficulties. Over-the-counter medications may help reduce symptoms (throat lozenges, menthol), and nasal irrigation or eye medications may help reduce nasal congestion and/or inflammation. Some doctors suggest that the side effects are not worth the one to two days of reduced or absent symptoms. Check with your physician before using these treatments.

Follow-up for a Cold

  • If diagnosed with a common cold and the symptoms are improving after several days, no immediate follow-up is needed.
  • If cold symptoms are not improving after five to 10 days or if they are worsening, call the doctor.
  • People can exercise normally, especially if they just have a "cold" with no chest congestion and otherwise feel normal.
  • Get plenty of rest. The body's natural immune defenses can battle and defeat the common cold virus. Resting at home or in a low-stress environment will help keep the immune system strong. Neither rest nor reasonable exercise will shorten the length of the cold.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Rhinoviruses »

The common cold is an acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) characterized by mild coryzal symptoms, rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and sneezing.

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