Are These Common Cold Treatments Making You Sick?

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection that can wreak havoc on our lives. Transmitted by infected airborne viruses or through direct contact with infected body secretions, the common cold can make life difficult during the time when the symptoms are at a peak. You will suffer from a runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, sore throat, and maybe even a cough and body ache. There are many over-the-counter medications available for soothing the symptoms of common cold and they even make us feel better, however, people often resort to many types of remedies that may actually be making the common cold worse. So what common cold treatments can actually be making you sick? Let us take a look.

Are These Common Cold Treatments Making You Sick?

What Common Cold Treatments Can Make You Sick?

An average individual with a healthy immune system is likely to catch a cold a few times in a year. Adults are likely to get around two to three colds in a year, while for kids it may range from 8 to 10 colds in a year. If a common cold is treated correctly, then it only lasts for a week or two. However, if you try out these treatments, then your cold could very well lag on for longer. Here are some common treatment mistakes we tend to make that often prolong the associated cold and flu misery.

  1. Pretending to be Fine

    Many people think that by pretending that they are fine and do not have a cold, the cold will simply disappear. Unfortunately, it does not work like that. When you fall sick, you have to acknowledge and take care of yourself. The common cold is a viral infection and your body will need all the extra energy it can get to fight off this infection. If you try and push through a cold, then you will only end up exhausting yourself. This is particularly true if you are running a fever. Pretending to be fine while suffering from a cold is likely to only make your symptoms worse and the infection will also take longer to get better.

    The better option is to acknowledge that you are unwell and rest. Treat your common cold symptoms by taking some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to feel better. Take ibuprofen for your fever and body pain. Take antihistamines for a runny nose and sneezing and take a cough suppressant if you have a cough as well. Not taking medications for a cold will definitely not shorten the amount of time it will take for you to get better.

  2. Resorting to the Old Toddy Remedy

    There is an old saying, “A hot toddy is just the thing to get rid of the sniffles”. This is anything but the truth. First things first, what is a toddy? A toddy is a mixture of whiskey, hot water and lemon. Sipping on hot toddy is unlikely to get rid of your cold. Drinking alcohol does not destroy the cold virus. Alcohol will only serve the purpose of dehydrating you and drying up your mucous membranes and adding to your discomfort and making you sicker. It will also make it harder for your body to fight against the virus. You may feel some relief in that the shot of alcohol will burn away the mucus coating in your throat, but the end result will only be dehydration and this will make your cold last even longer and this common cold treatment definitely makes you sick. Rather than having a hot toddy, opt for drinking plenty of fluids, especially warm fluids, like orange juice, water, or mint tea. Herbal tea will also help. Keeping yourself as hydrated as possible will make you feel better and also help in clearing away the congestion. When you are down with the common cold, you must ensure that you are having at least 8 cups of water in a day. The immune system is able to stop the cold symptoms faster if your body is well hydrated.

  3. Loading Up On Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is known to be a miraculous supplement and is said to have the ability to fight off everything. Many studies show that vitamin C does not have much effect in preventing a person from catching a cold or from reducing the severity of the symptoms. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that vitamin C may help prevent you from catching a cold, but only if you are an athlete who is exposed to cold temperatures. There is no harm in taking vitamin C supplements, but you should be aware that very high doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea. Also, people who have any iron-related conditions, they should avoid taking vitamin C as it may increase the absorption of iron, causing iron toxicity in the body. This is one common cold treatment which need not necessarily helps you.

  4. Are You Taking Antibiotics To Fight The Common Cold?

    This is a common mistake that many people make in treating a common cold and end up being sicker than before. You need an antibiotic if you are suffering from a bacterial infection. However, the common cold is caused by several genotypes of viruses, and viruses, do not respond to antibiotics. If you continue to pop antibiotics when you don’t need them, your body will eventually develop a resistance to them. Antibiotic resistance means that when you actually have an infection that requires an antibiotic to treat it, the antibiotic might not work as well as it should as your body has already developed a resistance to it. Therefore, do not try to cure a common cold with an antibiotic. Just opt for having any over-the-counter cold medications.

  5. Using Zinc To Cut Short Your Cold

    Taking zinc to shorten the length of your cold can work, but you need to take zinc with a pinch of caution. Zinc supplements are to be taken by mouth only. There have been many studies that have shown that taking a zinc supplement as soon as you notice the first signs of a cold, helps to actually shorten the length of your symptoms by nearly two days (only for adults). There are also many benefits to taking zinc on a regular basis. However, there are some severe side effects to taking zinc supplements. These include having nausea and a bad taste in your mouth from the zinc supplement. In children, though, zinc supplements have shown no beneficial effects in shortening the duration of a common cold. So taking zinc supplements is a common cold treatment, which can easily make you sick if not taken with caution.

  6. Overusing Over-the-Counter Decongestant Sprays

    Decongestant sprays or nasal sprays can work wonders in relieving a stuffy nose. However, if you continue to use them after 3 days of symptoms, it has been seen that the stuffy nose actually becomes worse after you stop taking the nasal spray. Therefore, use nasal spray for treating cold sparingly and preferably only when you are going to sleep so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

  7. Mixing Over-The-Counter Medications With Other Medications

    There is a misconception amongst people that it is perfectly safe to take over-the-counter (OTC) medications with other medications. There is no study that shows that OTC medication does not have drug interactions or cause side effects. In fact, drug interactions can very well occur even when you are using OTC medications. For example, a decongestant will likely include drugs like Phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine or even oxymetazoline. These can be present in either liquid, tablet, or even in a nasal spray form. All of these drugs have serious side effects. This is why if you are already taking some medication, you need to consult your doctor before you can start taking any OTC medication for your cold. And OTC drugs are known to cause severe interactions if you are already on antidepressants. Furthermore, people who suffer from high blood pressure also need to be careful of taking OTC cold decongestants.

    What you can do, though, is that you should check the warning labels on these OTC cold medications to find out any possible drug interactions. If you have any underlying health condition or you are taking some medication already, then it is always recommended that you consult your doctor or the pharmacist to find out about any possible drug interactions that may result from the medications you are taking and the OTC cold medications.

  8. Echinacea Extracts

    It is believed that Echinacea extracts can help get rid of a cold. However, research has shown that the Echinacea extract has no benefit at all. However, some research studies also show that the extracts of Echinacea can cut short the duration of a cold by around a day and a half. However, in people who are allergic to plants, such as ragweed, Echinacea is known to trigger strong allergies. This is why it is very important to be careful while taking any herbal supplements; especially if you have an allergy to pollen or weeds. Furthermore, herbal supplements are not regulated by any government agencies, so you will be buying at your own risk.


Instead of spending your time in trying out different remedies to treat cold, it is best that you stick to the tried and tested remedy of drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest. Here are some tips you can follow if you want to speed up your recovery from the common cold:

  • Drink lots of water, juice, chicken soup, and even just plain warm water with lemon and honey to loosen congestion and thin out the mucus. If you want to drink tea, opt for ones that are decaffeinated.
  • Make a mixture of salt and lukewarm water and do saltwater gargles at least three times daily to ease your sore throat and also thin out the mucus.
  • You can use saline nasal drops instead of decongestants to reduce the stuffiness and congestion of your nose.
  • Taking a hot steamy shower or using a humidifier may help with the congestion.

By following these simple tips, you will be able to recover faster and also not suffer from any unwanted side effects of the untested and unproven treatment options of cold which actually make you sick.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 3, 2018

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