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Do Common Cold Medicines Work?

The Inside Scoop On Cold Medicine

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on October 20, 2021

Every year when cold season rolls around, it seems like there’s a handful of new remedies and medicines that come out and claim to be the most effective treatment. This might leave you thinking: do common cold medicines actually work?

This article will answer that question and more about the common cold so you know how to best treat yourself and your little ones this cold season.

What is the common cold?

Basically, the common cold is a viral infection. Usually, it infects your nose and throat and although it’s annoying and leaves you feeling run down, it’s not seriously harmful to your health. It can however really slow you down, so it’s important to know the best way to treat the symptoms.


For the most part, the symptoms of the common cold last around 10 days and start one to three days after you’re first exposed to the virus. These symptoms include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose (or, in some really annoying cases, both!)
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Body aches (maybe headache)
  • Low fever
  • Sneezing
  • General feeling of being run down

If you notice that the snot or mucus coming from your nose gets thicker and more yellow or green in color as your cough progresses, don’t worry! This isn’t a sign of a bacterial infection, it’s just what happens naturally as the cold runs its course.


There are lots of different viruses that can cause a cold, but they all have one thing in common: they’re extremely contagious.

Viruses that cause the common cold are spread through droplets in the air. This means that anytime someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks, the virus enters the air and can then enter into your body through your mouth, eyes, or nose. For this reason, if someone in your family has the common cold it’s a good idea to have them wear a mask or be really diligent about covering their cough and sneeze so there aren’t as many of those droplets in the air.

Another way the common cold is spread is through hand-to-hand contact. Whenever someone with a cold touches an object or communal surface, the virus is then transmitted to that object where it can live for several hours depending on the surface material. For this reason, you can imagine why colds spread so quickly in places like preschools and elementary schools.

Is there a cure to the common cold?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. Given that so many different viruses can cause a cold and those viruses can mutate so quickly, no cure exists. That being said, the common cold has no long-term effects and there are several medications and remedies you can use at home to at least ease the symptoms.

Cold Medicines That Work

There are several different types of medications you or your kid can try to treat their cough symptoms. This section will take a look at some examples of cough medicines that actually work from Genexa, a company dedicated to making medicine with all the active ingredients you need and the artificial ones you don’t.

Kids’ Cold Crush

If you’re looking for a remedy for your little one’s cold but don’t want to give them any harsh chemicals, you can try Genexa’s Kids’ Cold Crush.

This is a homeopathic remedy that addresses symptoms of the common cold including congestion, mucus, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing. The best part? It’s made specifically for kids, so it comes in easy-to-manage chewy tablets and is safe for almost all kids over the age of three.

Kids’ Honey Cough Syrup

If you want a remedy that will target your kid’s cough specifically, you can try Genexa’s Kids’ Honey Cough Syrup. This cough syrup relies on organic elderberry, echinacea, and honey to soothe coughs associated with dry throat and irritation. Given that it uses only safe, natural ingredients, this cough syrup can be given to children older than one. This is a great option if you want to soothe your little one’s cough but are fearful of giving them strong, over-the-counter medication.

Kids’ Cough & Chest Congestion

If your child is over the age of six and they have a really bad cough, you can give them Genexa’s Kids’ Cough & Chest Congestion. This medicine is a powerful cough suppressant and expectorant that helps control cough, relieves chest congestion, and helps thin and loosen mucus. This is a great option for treating really bad coughs that could potentially turn into sinus infections if left unaddressed.

Kids’ Pain & Fever

Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of the common cold is the fever that it can sometimes induce. In order to reduce your little one’s fever and help make the aches they have to feel better, you can give them Genexa’s Kids’ Pain & Fever. This liquid medicine temporarily reduces fever and relieves minor aches and pains due to the common cold, flu, headache, sore throat, and toothache.

Other Effective Cold Remedies

Alongside those medicines, there are a few remedies you can try at home to ease cough symptoms in yourself and your little one.

Hydrate (Especially with Hot Liquids)!

Perhaps the most effective way to help your body fight off the common cold is to hydrate as much as possible. Fluids can help loosen the mucus that’s causing congestion and avoid dehydration. If the mucus that’s stuck in your nose, throat, and head is thinned by liquids, then it’ll be easier to cough it up or blow it out of your nose. Once that mucus is gone, the painful symptoms caused by congestion, like a headache at the front of your head, will be alleviated.

It’s also important to drink lots of fluids when you’re sick because it will ease the aching of your sore throat if you have one. Also, if your cold is giving you a slight fever, then you’ll likely be dehydrated. Fevers draw fluids out of your body, as does making mucus. For these reasons, it’s super important to drink plenty of water and other fluids to combat the effects of dehydration.

Try and stick to water and hot tea when you’re sick. Specifically, it’s a good idea to try tea with mint, ginger, and honey, all ingredients with naturally soothing properties. Try to stay away from coffee and alcohol because both of these dehydrate you and can, consequently, be counterproductive.

Soothe Your Sore Throat

Sometimes the worst part about having a cold is the sore throat that accompanies it. There are a few different ways to try and soothe your sore throat. You can try making a saltwater gargle which may provide some temporary relief for a scratchy, sore throat. You can also try drinking really cold water or eating ice chips to reduce the pain of a sore throat. If you’re on the move, you can try sucking on a lozenge, but be careful when giving these to kids because they can be a choking hazard.

Add Moisture to the Air

Oftentimes if you live in a really dry place, your cold symptoms will be worse because there’s no moisture in the air to help loosen the mucus trapped in your nose, throat, chest, and head. To combat the dryness of the air, you can try using a cool-mist vaporizer or a humidifier.

Loosen Mucus with Steam

Another way to loosen mucus is with steam. You can bring a pot of water to a simmer, remove it from heat, and inhale the steam from the water by placing your head over the pot and towel over your head. If your small child has a cold and they don't want to do this funny-looking maneuver, you can run a hot shower and have them stand in the bathroom and inhale the steam that way.

Cold Medicines That Don’t Work

Although all of the medications and remedies in the sections above are actually beneficial, there are a few medicines to steer clear of when treating yourself or your child for the common cold.


Given that the common cold is always caused by a virus, there’s no reason to take antibiotics when you have a cold. Antibiotics attack bacteria, so they won’t be effective at all in helping your body fight off the cold virus. It’s also a good idea, in general, to limit your intake of antibiotics because the more antibiotics people take, the more antibiotic resistant bacteria will become.

OTC Cough and Cold Medicines for Young Kids

For any child that’s younger than six years old, it’s a good idea to keep them away from cold and cough medicine. Over-the-counter medications can cause serious and potentially fatal side effects in kids, so it’s important to use alternative remedies to help them get over a cold.


The answer to “do cold medications actually work?” is both yes and no. Although there’s no cure to the common cold (stay away from anyone who says there is!), you can try medications from reliable companies such as Genexa to soothe symptoms and help your body fight to feel better faster. Get well soon!