Cough and Cold Symptoms

Medications used to treat coughs and colds are antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, and expectorants. Some of these are available without a prescription. Anti-infective medications also may be prescribed when indicated. Over-the-counter antihistamines include Dimetane, Chlor-Trimeton, Benadryl, and Benylin. Over-the-counter decongestants include Sudafed, Afrin, Dristan, Sinutab, Allerest, and Coricidin. Cough syrups stops coughing. Examples are Novahistine, Robitussin DM, or Cheracol D. Expectorants loosen secretions in your chest so you can cough them out. Robitussin Syrups and Nortussin have the expectorant, guaifenesin. Some medications have several ingredients (to treat many symptoms) such as Alka-Seltzer Plus, Contact, Co-Tylenol, Ny-Quil, Sinutab, and 4-way Cold Tablets.

What causes colds and how are they treated?

  • Colds with or without cough usually are caused by a virus. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Colds cannot be cured, but cold symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications.

When should I consult a healthcare professional and what should I tell them?

  • Tell the healthcare professional about any alcohol or medications (prescriptions, or nonprescription) that the patient is taking.
  • Tell if the individual is pregnant.
  • Tell if the individual has heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or glaucoma.
  • Contact a healthcare provider if a cough or cold last longer than one week or the individual has yellow or green sputum or nasal drainage.
  • A cough can be a sign of serious illness and should be evaluated if it continues. Green or yellow discharge can indicate a bacterial infection in the lungs or sinuses, so these symptoms need evaluation.

How should I give this medication and how should I store it?

  • Give these medications by mouth unless indicated on the prescription.
  • You can give these medications either with or without food unless indicated on the prescription.
  • Give these medications on time and as prescribed.
  • Store these medications at room temperature.
  • Cough syrups should be given last when giving several medications at once.
  • Do not follow cough syrups with food or liquid which would decrease the effectiveness.

What side effects should I look for and when might I see them?

  • The medication may cause drowsiness, hyperactivity, or sleeplessness.
  • Report immediately any fever greater than 101 orally, pain when taking a breath, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood.

Where can I buy this medication?

  • Go to on-line pharmacy on the World Wide Web and buy prescription drugs.