Relieve colds, coughs and sore throats – Common cold

    • What’s a pseudocroup?
      • How does a pseudocroup manifest itself?
      • In case of severe shortness of breath: call emergency doctor
      • What can you do yourself?
      • How is a pseudocroup treated?


    • relieve colds, coughs and sore throats
      • painkillers
      • nasal sprays
      • vitamin C
      • Herbal medicinal products
      • Inhalation of water vapour and drinking plenty of fluids
      • antibiotics

relieve colds, coughs and sore throats

(PantherMedia / Kasia Bialasiewicz) There is no treatment that works directly against cold viruses. However, painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol as well as nasal sprays can alleviate the symptoms somewhat. Many other therapies are not well studied or have no proven benefit.

Colds are common: On average, adults have to deal with them two to four times a year, children even six to eight times on average. The reason is that colds can be caused by many different viruses. Therefore, an infection with one virus type does not protect against the next infection.

Colds usually heal by themselves within one to two weeks. It is not necessary to take any medication. Symptoms such as a cold with a runny or blocked nose, coughing and headaches are annoying. So far, there is no treatment that can shorten a cold. Antibiotics do not help with simple colds because they are only effective against bacteria. They should also only be used if there are complications due to an additional bacterial infection because of the possible side effects.


Painkillers such as ASS, ibuprofen and paracetamol can relieve cold-related pain such as headache, aching limbs and earache. They are not effective against coughs and sniffles. These painkillers also have an antipyretic effect.

Paracetamol is particularly suitable for children as it is better tolerated than, for example, ASA and ibuprofen. For children and adolescents, ASA is out of the question for febrile diseases because it can have a rare but dangerous side effect (Reye syndrome).

nasal sprays

Decongestant nasal sprays or drops (decongestants) can relieve runny or stuffy nose and facilitate breathing. However, it is not recommended to use the sprays or drops for longer than one week, as they may otherwise have the opposite effect: The result is a permanent cold. This means that already a few hours after the application the mucous membrane of the nose swells again. The more frequently the remedies are used, the stronger this effect becomes. There are different decongestants with different active ingredients. They can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, restlessness and sleep disorders.

vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for health. However, a vitamin C deficiency is very rare in Germany. Most people consume sufficient vitamin C in their daily diet. Nevertheless, it is advertised that the additional intake of large amounts of vitamin C should help to alleviate cold symptoms. However, studies show that vitamin C supplements have no effect on the symptoms and duration of a cold if they are taken at the beginning of the cold.

Herbal medicinal products

There are many herbal medicines that promise relief for colds. However, there are hardly any reliable studies on the benefits of these drugs. The results of some studies indicate that special extracts of ivy, eucalyptus, primrose root, pelargonium root and thyme have at best a mild cough-quenching effect.

Also preparations with extracts of echinacea are frequently offered against colds. They are supposed to strengthen the immune system. However, previous studies have shown no clear results.

Inhalation of water vapour and drinking plenty of fluids

Many people find the inhalation of water vapour with or without additives such as camomile or peppermint oil pleasant, as heat and moisture can temporarily calm the nasal mucous membranes. Inhaling, however, has no clear effect on cold symptoms.

Frequently, people with a cold are also advised to drink a lot of fluids. However, there is no scientific evidence that drinking a lot helps. So there is no reason to force yourself to drink more than you want when you have a cold. However, drinking hot tea or milk is often perceived as beneficial and warming.


Many people believe that antibiotics are generally effective against infections. In fact, they can only fight infections caused by bacteria. They are powerless against viruses and can therefore do nothing against colds. Studies confirm that antibiotics do not shorten the duration of a simple cold. However, they often have side effects: About one in 10 people will experience side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches or skin rashes. In women, antibiotics can change the vaginal flora and therefore promote vaginal inflammation.

The situation is different if bacteria have spread into the respiratory tract as a result of a cold and lead to inflammation there. Then treatment with antibiotics may be possible.

Signs of bacterial inflammation may be present:

  • over several days greenish discoloured nasal mucus or sputum,
  • persistent sore throat and purulent tonsils,
  • stubbornly stuffy nose and severe headache in the area of the frontal sinus,
  • Fever, chest pain and problems breathing.

Such symptoms should be checked by a doctor. In the case of mild bacterial infections, it is also possible for the doctor to issue a prescription for antibiotics in case the symptoms still do not improve after a few days. You then do not redeem the prescription and wait to see whether the symptoms will subside by themselves.


De Sutter AI, van Driel ML, Kumar AA, Lesslar O, Skrt A. Oral antihistamine-decongestant-analgesic combinations for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; (2): CD004976.

Deckx L, De Sutter AIM, Guo L, Mir NA, van Driel ML. Nasal decongestants in monotherapy for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016; (10): CD009612.

German Society for General and Family Medicine (DEGAM). Cough. DEGAM Guideline No. 11. AWMF Registry No.: 053-013. 02.2014.

Guppy MP, Mickan SM, Del Mar CB, Thorning S, Rack A. Advising patients to increase fluid intake for treating acute respiratory infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; (2): CD004419.

Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (1): CD000980.

Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, Kiefer D, Bauer R, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Linde K. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014; (2): CD000530.

Kenealy T, Arroll B. Antibiotics for the common cold and acute purulent rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (6): CD000247.

Kim SY, Chang YJ, Cho HM, Hwang YW, Moon YS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015; (9): CD006362.

Li S, Yue J, Dong BR, Yang M, Lin X, Wu T. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) for the common cold in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (7): CD008800.

Singh M, Singh M. Heated, humidified air for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (6): CD001728.

Spurling GK, Del Mar CB, Dooley L, Foxlee R, Farley R. Delayed antibiotics for respiratory infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (4): CD004417.

Timmer A, Günther J, Motschall E, Rücker G, Antes G, Kern WV. Pelargonium sidoides extract for treating acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (10): CD006323.

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Christina Cherry
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: