Best OTC Medicine for the Cold

Posted by Avron Anstey on

With the rapid approach of the winter season coming upon us, the influenza virus is running rampant in the air. These viruses are a common cause of cold and flu symptoms. Patients can get them through respiratory droplets from other sick people or surfaces that are infected with the virus.

When getting a cold, people often experience multiple symptoms that consist of fever, headache, runny nose, cough, congestion, aches and pains, and fatigue.

Fortunately, there are over-the-counter cold medications that can help alleviate the symptoms so you can have a good night's sleep.


Which Medication Is Right for Me?

List of Recommended OTC Medication for Colds

If you’re wondering about the best brand of OTC medication for a cold, then we have a pretty good list for you.


The common symptoms of a cold is a severe headache or head congestion. Fortunately, Tylenol can clear up the congestion and provide relief from the aches and pains. The acetaminophen ingredient found in Tylenol does an excellent job to stop the fever, sore throat, and headaches. The formula also contains guaifenesin, which helps clear out mucus and phlegm. The guaifenesin acts as a nasal decongestant to further alleviate the pressure in your sinuses.

Vick’s DayQuil

When you have a severe cold, all you want to do is stay in bed and rest. But you have other responsibilities like school, work, and family. Fortunately, with DayQuil, you will feel energized as if you didn’t have the flu. DayQuil has all of the active ingredients to fight the cold without the added drowsiness. This liquid capsule can relieve six common cold symptoms such as sore throat, aches and pain, headaches, cough, nasal congestion, and fever.


Should I take a Decongestant or an Antihistamine?

Since there are a variety of OTC medications on the market, it’s hard to tell which ones you need. The most common questions that people often ask is, do I need a decongestant or an antihistamine?

It really depends on your symptoms. If you have severe sinus congestion, then a decongestant can help reduce the symptoms. If you have a runny nose, watery eyes, or postnasal drip, then antihistamine is the drug of choice. However, OTC antihistamine can make you tired, so you shouldn’t drive or operate a vehicle if you take the medication.

Decongestion can make you hyper or cause insomnia, so you might have trouble sleeping. Antihistamine can thicken mucus, which makes it difficult for people with asthma.

Both of these medications can interact with blood pressure and heart medication, so it’s best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking the medication.

Can I Take a Decongestant if I Have High Blood Pressure?

The problem with a decongestant is that it can increase heart rate and blood pressure; this can be problematic for anyone with a predisposition to stroke or heart attack. This is mainly because pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient found in decongestion. If your blood pressure is well controlled with the proper medication, then decongestion shouldn’t be an issue as long as you keep an eye on your blood pressure. 

However, before you decide on taking a decongestant, it’s best to check with your doctor or pharmacist. They may need to analyze your medication list to see if there are any potential interactions with the drug.

How Often Should I Use a Nasal Spray?

Nasal decongestants work extremely fast to clear out and to open your airway. However, if you use them more than 3 to 5 days in a row, you might end up feeling more congested than before. This phenomenon is called rebound congestion

Whenever you use decongestant for more than a few days, you develop a tolerance for it and will require more to get the same therapeutic effect. The worst part is that the tolerance can make you more congested because the blood vessels in the nose are too reliant on the decongestion that it does not work correctly.

Healthcare providers often recommend saline spray instead of medicated spray. Unfortunately, that might take longer to work, but it won’t cause rebound congestion down the line.


What to Take for a Fever

A fever is a healthy body reaction to fighting off infection. This is where your immune system goes in overdrive to promote blood flow and white blood cells to fight off the invaders. When that happens, your body’s temperature will increase, leading to a fever. 

The best medication for a fever would be ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Keep in mind that both of these medications can cause ulcers, clotting issues, and liver problems. It’s best to use the proper dosage to prevent side effects and to consult with your doctor if you experience any of these unfavorable symptoms.

It’s vital to avoid aspirin for young children because it can lead to Reye's syndrome, which causes liver damage or dysfunction.


What’s Best for a Sore Throat?

If you have a sore throat, it’s best to drink lots of fluids or gargle saltwater for relief. You can also try medicated Lozenges or acetaminophen to help reduce the sore throat. Cough drops or cough syrup can also work to soothe your throat to reduce the symptoms. 

However, if sore throat persists despite over-the-counter medication, then it’s essential to see your doctor for potential bacterial infection which will require antibiotic medicines.



Having a cold is no fun at all. Usually, it helps to drink plenty of water, rest in bed, and take plenty of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system during the fight. 

Luckily, OTC drugs can help alleviate some symptoms from the cold, such as a stuffy nose, headache, fever, sore throat, cough, or any unfavorable symptoms. If you still experience symptoms after using OTC medication and lifestyle modification, then it’s best to see a healthcare provider check for a potential bacterial infection or other underlying conditions.

Keep in mind that bacterial infections require prescription antibiotic medication to get rid of it.

In addition, you should consider getting a flu shot during the fall and winter seasons to reduce the cold symptoms or to prevent an infection. With all this in mind, you will know what to do during the flu or cold attacks and will be able to experience a speedy recovery.

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