Got the Sniffles? Here’s What Will Help

Local doctors give advice about curing the common cold

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    MILWAUKIE, OR - JULY 20: Boxes of over-the-counter cold medication are shown as Pharmacy Technician Ben Auxier stocks prescriptions at Hi-School Pharmacy store on July 20, 2005 in Milwaukie, Oregon. The Oregon House passed a bill today that would make Oregon the first state to require prescriptions for certain cold medicines that contain Pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient used to make Meth. Oregon law requires ID checks and a log book of all cold medicine sales. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

    February brings more than just the snow and cold weather.  It can also bring runny noses and the dreaded “common cold.”  So what’s a sick person to do?

    There’s no real cure for the common cold.  Still, there are countless over-the-counter medicines that claim to help.  Unfortunately, if you buy all those medicines, you could be wasting a lot of money.

    Got The Sniffles? Here's What Will Help

    [DC] Got The Sniffles?  Here's What Will Help
    When buying an over-the-counter medicine, read the label and make sure what you're buying will help your symptoms. (Published Monday, Feb 22, 2010)

    Dr. Shumel Shoham, an infectious disease specialist at Washington Hospital Center, said it’s better to focus on a single ingredient. 

    “You don’t want to take something that you don’t need,” he said.

    For example, if you have a dry cough, Shoham said to look for a medication with dextromethorphan.  That will make your cough more productive.  For a fever, acetominaphin or ibuprofen work best.  If you have nasal congestion, try a product with phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine to dry out your nose.

    According to Shoham, most common colds go away on their own.  But if you're experiencing fever, shortness of breath, chest pain or if your cold goes away and then comes right back even worse than before, you should see your doctor.

    The bottom line: when buying over the counter medications, read the label and make sure what you're buying will help your symptoms.