When you’re sick, all you want is to feel better. It may take a while for your body to fight off what ails you, but relief from your aches and fever can come sooner.
You can treat many common symptoms of colds, the flu, and sinus infections with over-the-counter medications and some simple self-care.
Acetaminophen. Drugs with this ingredient affect the areas of your brain that control body temperature and pain. These medications can fight fevers and chills, ease headaches, and soothe sore throats and body aches.
Check with your doctor before taking acetaminophen if you have severe kidney or liver disease, or if you drink three or more alcoholic beverages a day.
Many multi-symptom cold medicines contain acetaminophen. Check the labels of any products you’re taking to make sure you’re not overdosing.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). This group of meds includes aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Each is different, but they all reduce fevers and pain. NSAIDs may work better than acetaminophen at lowering a fever. They may do a better job of relieving sinus pain, too, since they reduce swelling.
Check with your doctor before you use NSAIDs if you have a history of stomach problems, heart, liver, or kidney disease, or if you’re taking a blood thinner.
Don’t give aspirin to a child under the age of 19. It can cause a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
Choosing an OTC Pain Reliever — What to Consider
Never take more than one type of NSAID. Since ibuprofen and acetaminophen control pain differently, you may be able to use both on the same day — but check with your doctor first. You don’t want to take more medication than you need.
Other important things to know about OTC pain relievers.
They can make other medicines less effective. So talk with your doctor first if you’re taking a prescription medicine or a daily dose of aspirin to prevent a heart attack.
Taking more than the recommended dose won’t make medicine work faster. It could be dangerous.
Take Care of Yourself
Stay cool. Place a damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, or legs. Or take a slightly warm (not hot) bath. Both things can help bring down your fever.
Don’t overheat. If you get the chills, remove extra clothing and blankets. Bundling up causes your body’s temperature to rise, making chills worse.
Eat healthy foods. Sugary snacks and drinks may slow down your recovery. Nutritious choices help fuel your body’s defenses.
When to See Your Doctor
A cold usually goes away on its own. But call your doctor’s office if you have a fever over 101 F, vomiting, pain in your face or head, a severe sore throat, or a cough that won’t go away.