Most people at some point in their life will experience the common cold or a mild to moderate cough, particularly during the winter months. A cough can be symptomatic of many illnesses, but it’s also a very common symptom of the common cold. While most people recover quite quickly from the common cold and have mild symptoms, it can disrupt your normal everyday activities, but there are a number of treatments that can help to lessen the severity of these symptoms and help you to function better.
Below are some common medicines often used to treat cough and cold. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list and other non-medical methods or lifestyle changes may be more suitable. If you would like to learn more about these options, then please continue reading. Before receiving medication you must answer a number of questions to assess your suitability. All questions are reviewed by a GMC registered doctor before a final decision is made. All medication is dispensed via a fully regulated and registered UK pharmacy. All prices displayed on our site include the price of the medication and our doctor’s consultation fee.
Dr. Daniel Cichi
Our Health Care Team
"The common cold can be easily managed with some at-home or over the counter remedies. Symptoms aren’t usually serious but if you’ve had a cough for longer than three weeks then it’s worth visiting your GP to get checked out. Nasal congestion, sore throat, and a cough are the most bothersome symptoms of the common cold, but you can ease these with decongestants and warm drinks. With plenty of rest and hydration you should feel much better within a week or two."
What is the common cold?
The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that mainly affects the nose and throat. It belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, but it is a very mild and harmless viral infection compared to other coronaviruses such as COVID-19 and flu. There is no cure for the common cold but most people will recover from it within a week or two. A cold makes you feel generally unwell, although you don’t feel 100% at your best, you should be able to function, albeit with some discomfort. You can simply let your cold take its course, or you can try treatments that can help to lessen the symptoms and help you to function a bit better.
Cough and cold symptoms
A cough is often a symptom of a cold, along with a sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing. You may also experience symptoms that affect the head, this is otherwise known as a head cold which is essentially the common cold with symptoms such as headaches and stuffiness around the sinuses. Some colds can predominantly affect the chest and cause an increase in mucus production which produces a cough that feels wet. You may also bring up mucus as you cough, or you may feel like something is dripping at the back of your throat which is the result of postnasal drip that occurs with a cold.
A cough that is associated with a mild cold should last no longer than three weeks, but if your cough is persistent and lasting longer than three weeks you should see your GP.
In most cases, cold symptoms are usually mild and if you’re fit and well you should recover quite soundly. In rare cases, the cold may cause complications for those who are immunocompromised and can’t fight off infections as easily as someone who is fit and well. Those who are elderly or have severe respiratory problems may take longer to recover from a cold compared to the average person and may get complications such as a chest infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia. If the cold virus spreads to the sinuses or ears you can get an ear infection which may cause earache, some hearing loss, and a high temperature, a sinus infection may cause pain and tenderness around the forehead, nose, and eyes.
What is the difference between a cold, flu, and COVID-19?
All of these virus infections have similar symptoms and it can be difficult to differentiate between them. However, there are some slight differences that can give a clue to the type of infection you have. For instance, if you have a cold or flu your cough may feel ‘wet’ due to the body trying to push out the excess mucus in the respiratory tract, however, COVID-19 commonly produces a dry cough due to the inflammation and irritation in the respiratory tract. A dry cough can cause persistent coughing fits.
It’s also very rare to have a high temperature with a cold, but this is a common symptom of flu and COVID-19. People are also more likely to become seriously ill with flu or COVID-19 but this is highly unlikely with the common cold. Sneezing and a runny nose is very common with the common cold but these are rare with flu and COVID-19.
The only way of knowing whether you have COVID-19 or another viral infection is to take a test.
How to treat the common cold
Although there is no cure, the symptoms can be managed with medicinal and natural remedies. The most important thing to do is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to replace any lost fluids. You should also maintain a healthy diet and give your body all the nutrients it needs to fight the infection, this includes eating foods such as fruit and vegetables that are high in vitamin C to boost your immune system, as well as foods high in fibre.
Some natural remedies for the common cold include:
- Honey, ginger, and garlic - add honey to a warm drink with some lemon and ginger to ease a sore throat. Honey and garlic have antimicrobial properties, and ginger is anti-inflammatory and a good pain reliever
- Probiotics - research suggests that probiotics can improve the health of your immune system and prevent infections
- Take a warm bath to soothe body aches
- Steam - the steam from the bath or shower can relieve nasal congestion
- Drink plenty of water and get lots of rest
You can relieve a high temperature and aches and pains with painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, and you can take over the counter decongestants which can relieve nasal congestion. There are some medicines that combine painkillers and decongestants to improve your cold symptoms quicker. Antibiotics should not be used to treat the cold or any viral infection as they can only treat bacterial infections and will have no effect on your cold symptoms but may cause unpleasant side effects.
Taking medication may help you to get on with your normal daily activities with less discomfort and pain. Browse our range of cough and cold medications to find one that suits you and your symptoms.
How can I prevent getting a cold?
As with any virus, washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to prevent yourself from becoming ill and preventing spreading infections to others. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day particularly after touching surfaces that could be contaminated and before you eat, etc. Avoid touching your face as this is how viruses are transmitted to your body through the eyes, mouth, and nose. You should also avoid sharing household items such as towels, cups, and cutlery with other people who are ill as you’re likely to also become infected.
Make sure your body’s defence against viruses is in top working order. Living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and being active will keep your immune system healthy so it can fight off infections before they have a chance to take hold. Cut out anything that could be weakening your immune system and making you vulnerable to illness such as smoking and alcohol.