St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Common cold - how to treat at home

    Colds are very common. A visit to the doctor's office is often not needed, and colds usually get better in 3 - 4 days.

    A type of germ called a virus causes most colds. There are many types of viruses that can cause a cold. Depending on what virus you have, your symptoms may vary.

    Common symptoms of a cold include:

    • Fever (100 °F or higher) in chills
    • Headache, sore muscles, and fatigue
    • Cough
    • Nasal symptoms, such as stuffiness, runny nose, yellow or green snot, and sneezing,
    • Sore throat

    Treating your Cold

    Treating your symptoms will not make your cold go away, but will help you feel better. Antibiotics are almost never needed to treat a common cold.

    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever and relieve muscle aches.

    • Do NOT use aspirin.
    • Check the label for the proper dose.
    • Call your doctor if you need to take these medicines more than 4 times per day or for more than 2 or 3 days.

    Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children.

    • They are not recommended for children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before giving your child OTC cold medicine, which can have serious side effects.
    • Coughing is your body's way of getting mucus out of your lungs. So use cough syrups only when your cough becomes too painful.
    • Throat lozenges or sprays for your sore throat.

    Many cough and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you don't take too much of any one medicine. If you take prescription medications for another health problem, ask your health care provide which OTC cold medications are safe for you.

    Drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, and stay away from secondhand smoke.

    Wheezing can be a common symptom of a cold if you have asthma.

    • Use rescue inhaler as prescribed if you are wheezing.
    • See your doctor immediately if it becomes hard to breathe.

    Home Remedies

    Many home remedies are popular treatments for the common cold. These include vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea.

    Although not well proven to help, most home remedies are safe for most people.

    • However, some may cause side effects or allergic reactions.
    • They may also change the way other medicines your health care provider has given you work.
    • Talk to your health care provider before trying any herbs and supplements.

    Preventing the Spread of Colds

    Keep your hands clean by washing them often. This is the best way to stop the spread of germs.

    To wash your hands correctly:

    • Rub soap onto wet hands for 20 seconds. Make sure to get under your fingernails. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and turn faucet off with paper towel.
    • You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use a dime size amount and rub all over your hands until they are dry.

    Other tips to prevent colds:

    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the crease of your elbow, not into the air.
    • Keep your vaccinations up to date.

    When to Call the Doctor

    Try treating your cold at home first. Call your health care provider right away, or go to the emergency room, if you have:

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Sudden chest pain or abdominal pain
    • Sudden dizziness
    • Acting strangely
    • Severe vomiting that does not go away

    Also call your doctor if:

    • You start acting strangely.
    • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve after 7 - 10 days.


          A Closer Look

            Talking to your MD

              Self Care

              Tests for Common cold - how to treat at home

                Review Date: 3/31/2012

                Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

                The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

                A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

                Back  |  Top
                About Us
                Contact Us
                Locations & Directions
                Quality Reports
                Annual Reports
                Honors & Awards
                Community Health Needs

                Brain & Spine
                Sleep Medicine
                Urgent Care
                Women's Services
                All Services
                Patients & Visitors
                Locations & Directions
                Find a Physician
                Tour St. Luke's
                Patient & Visitor Information
                Contact Us
                Payment Options
                Financial Assistance
                Send a Card
                Mammogram Appointments
                Health Tools
                My Personal Health
                Spirit of Women
                Health Information & Tools
                Clinical Trials
                Employer Programs -
                Passport to Wellness

                Classes & Events
                Classes & Events
                Spirit of Women
                Donate & Volunteer
                Giving Opportunities
                Physicians & Employees
                For Physicians
                Remote Access
                Medical Residency Information
                Pharmacy Residency Information
                Physician CPOE Training
                St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
                Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile