What is the Treatment for Cold and Flu?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 29, 2012

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Doctors recommend just symptomatic treatment for symptoms of cold or flu as both these infections are caused by viruses and there is no need for antibiotics. Most people with flu improve with symptomatic treatments but some may need anti-viral drugs. [Read: Tips to Get Rid of a Cold Quickly]


Treatment for cold

There is no medication or vaccine to prevent common cold. Common cold is a self-limiting illness that improves in a few days. Home remedies and treatments make you feel better while your body fights off the infection. Your doctor will recommend symptomatic treatment which includes:

  • Rest.
  • Taking plenty of fluids such as oral rehydration solution, fresh juice, soups, and coconut water.
  • Antipyretic such as acetaminophen to reduce fever.
  • Tepid sponging to reduce high fever.
  • Medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin can help with fever, sore throat, and body aches. Aspirin or aspirin-containing medications are not recommended for use in children or teenagers as these have been associated with a rare, potentially fatal condition called Reye's syndrome.
  • For older children and adults, over-the-counter cold and cough medications may help relieve symptoms, but they don’t prevent or shorten the duration of illness. Over-the-counter cough and cold medications can cause side effects in small children, so don’t give them to your child without consulting a doctor.
  • Gargling with lukewarm water with added salt may help in sore throat.
  • Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or antihistamines (cetirizine and chlorpheniramine maleate) can help to relieve nasal symptoms.
  • Saline nasal sprays and drops can help clear the secretions. [Read: Healthy Habits to Fight Cold and Flu]


Treatment for flu: Most people with flu also need symptomatic treatment such as rest, taking plenty of fluids (such as oral rehydration solution, fresh juice, soups, and coconut water), antipyretic such as acetaminophen to reduce fever, and tepid sponging to reduce high fever. For some people the doctor may recommend antiviral medications. The antiviral treatment for flu includes:

  • Relenza: This medication is given by inhalation to patients older than seven years. It is effective against both influenza type A and B.
  • Tamiflu: It is available as a capsule or oral suspension and is prescribed both for flu treatment and prevention in children over the age of 1 years and adults. It is effective against both type A and B influenza virus.
  • Symmetrel: It is effective against influenza type A alone and is used for treatment and prevention of flu in children over 12 months of age.
  • Flumadine: It is effective against just type A influenza virus and is approved only for prevention of flu in children younger than 10 years and not for flu treatment. [Read: Treatment options for Flu]


Amantadine and rimantadine are not recommended for prevention or treatment of flu any longer due to problems with resistance. Anti-viral drugs can help to shorten the duration of illness and may help you to get better a few days faster. These drugs are most effective when started within 1-2 days of start of symptoms. If you have symptoms of flu which do not improve with rest and symptomatic treatment, consult your doctor. [Read: Tips to Stay Healthy in Cold and Flu Season]


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