Cough and Cold Information

Most cases of sinus infections, colds, and bronchitis do not need antibiotics. Colds are almost always due to viruses, and therefore do not require antibiotics. These conditions get better by themselves most of the time. Because of that we focus on treating the symptoms. Here are some suggestions:

  • Secretions (i.e. mucus) are contagious. This is why it is so important to wash your hands frequently, and especially after you blow your nose or sneeze. Cover your cough. You can use alcohol based preparations or hand sanitizers to help eliminate germs also.
  • It is easier to get rid of secretions if they are watery, not thick. Avoid antihistamines such as Benadryl or Claritin in these cases.
  • Drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids! Take hot showers. Try a humidifier or vaporizer. Saline nasal spray sometimes helps. Guaifenesin (Robitussin) will help with congestion.
  • Afrin is nasal spray that can be used for congestion. Sudafed or Mucinex may also be used for congestion. Afrin and Sudafed have been shown to be habit forming after 4-5 days of use. This is for short-term use only.
  • Avoid Sudafed or Afrin if you have high blood pressure. Mucinex (without the DM) can be used if you have high blood pressure.
  • Nearly all medicines for cough and cold have a generic or less expensive form.


  • Use guaifenesin with dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin DM. Another option would be Delsym.


  • Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) 650 mg every 4 hours.
  • Use ibuprofen (Advil) 400 mg every 6 hours.
  • Throat lozenges or spray for sore throat.


  • Children’s doses are based on weight and age. Use information on the label to ensure the correct dose for your child. Kids can’t take every medicine that an adult can. Make sure the label states it is safe for kids. If a kid is under 2 years of age, consult your doctor before giving them any medications.
  • For a baby too young to blow his or her nose, use an infant nasal aspirator. If mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution into each nostril.
    Don’t insert cotton swabs into a child’s nostrils. Instead, catch the discharge outside the nostril on a tissue or swab, roll it around and pull the discharge out of the nose.


  • There is limited evidence that these help. Zinc and Vitamin C may have some benefit by shortening the length of the cold, if taken soon enough in the course of the illness.


  • Many cold and flu drugs have combinations of medicines. If you are not sure ask your pharmacist for assistance.


  • Smokers usually get sicker more often and it lasts longer.


  • Most infections of the sinuses, nose, and throat last 3-5 days in duration but can last up to 2 weeks.; You are most contagious the first several days.; If you are still sick after 2 weeks, or if you have worsening symptoms, such as fever, worsening headache, increased yellow/green secretions, or intolerable symptoms, we will be happy to schedule an appointment for you.


Notify our office if:

  • Increased throat pain, or white or yellow spots on the tonsils or other parts of the throat.
  • Coughing episodes that last longer than intervals between coughing; cough that produces thick, yellow-green or gray sputum; cough that lasts longer than 10 days; or difficult or labored breathing between coughing bouts.
  • You cannot distinguish a common cold from the flu.
  • Fever that lasts several days or fever over 101 F (38.3 C).
  • Shaking chills, chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Earache or headache
  • Skin rash; dusky blue or gray lips, skin or nail beds.
  • Pain in the teeth or over the sinuses.
  • Unusual lethargy or irritability.
  • Delirium
  • Enlarged, tender glands in the neck.
  • Inability to bottle-feed or breast-feed in an infant.


  • To prevent spreading a cold to others, avoid unnecessary contact during the contagious phase (first 2 to 4 days).
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or before handling food.
  • Avoid crowded places when possible, especially during the winter.
  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C.