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So you have a cold. You did the best you could with winter: you got enough sleep and exercise, ate properly, cleaned meticulously, wore your protective mask, and washed your hands regularly. But you still caught a cold -- it happens. No one is an island, and when you're around people all day at work, school, or even home there's a good chance you'll be exposed to some germs. That's why we've put together a guide to how you can ease the symptoms of your cold. Unfortunately, being a virus, a cold has to run its course, but you can take steps to reduce its impact on your day.
Healthy people are all alike; each cold is unhappy in its own way. You're familiar with the symptoms of the common cold, but they might impact you in varying degrees. That's why we're breaking the cold down by symptoms to help you find the right products for what ails you most.
Nasal congestion is one of the most common symptoms there is, and not just for cold sufferers. Anyone who has allergies knows what it's like to have a stuffy or runny nose, excessive mucus production, or swollen nasal lining. You're going to want a decongestant.
Decongestants generally work by constricting blood vessels, which prevents liquid from leaving the blood vessels and entering the nose, throat, and sinus linings. This decreases mucus production as well as inflammation of the nasal membranes. Common decongestants include pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, or oxymetazoline. You'll usually find decongestants in two types:
These are the highly visual symptoms that make you feel particularly unappealing, the ones that feel like they're shouting to the world that you've got a cold. Not to mention that sneezing is both annoying and very capable of spreading the germs that got you sick. These symptoms are the result of histamines, molecules in your body that are involved in too many processes to list here. Most relevantly, they're part of your immune response. To deal with these overachievers, you'll need an antihistamine.
Antihistamines work to block histamines from binding to receptors that create an allergic reaction. These medications often include diphenhydramine or chlorphenamine, and can also treat allergies. They may have some inconvenient side effects: some create drowsiness, or cause dryness in the eyes, nose, and mouth. Many newer antihistamines don't cause drowsiness, though, so if you need to get through a work or school day, make sure you look for a non-drowsy one.
A doctor will generally suggest staying home when sick, but due to the demands of work or school (or, let's be honest, the movies opening during the holiday season), that's not always feasible. Coughing is uncomfortable, and not only announces your sickness to everyone but also spreads it to them. In the right conditions, it's a public health hazard. Here's what you'll need:
Be careful with these symptoms: if you're developing the flu, that's another article and your illness is going to be markedly more unpleasant than a cold. But less severe versions of these symptoms are not uncommon in colds. Over-the-counter analgesics are usually an appropriate response.
Analgesics are medications that treat pain and often inflammation, and come in many forms, organized by their mechanisms of action. Some are much more intense than others, but you likely have over-the-counter ones in your home to treat minor issues like headaches. Some key options:
You may have noticed by following some of those product links that many cold products cover multiple areas we've outlined. Sometimes you may want a cold medicine that deals with multiple symptoms, and sometimes you may want something more targeted. The important thing is that you have an idea of what these diverse, often unpronounceable medications do and what's going to be most effective for the symptoms you have.