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Student Wellness Services  /  Health  /  Cough and Cold Care Tips

Cough and Cold Care Tips

February 07, 2024

NOTE: The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or emergency treatment. You should not use any information on this page to diagnose or develop a treatment plan for a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider.

Infographic of cold vs. flu symptoms

Take care of yourself! Although usually minor, colds can make you feel miserable. It's tempting to try the latest remedy, but the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Rest, drink fluids, and keep the air around you moist. Remember to wash your hands frequently.

Contact Student Health Services if you experience any of the following:

  • High fever (Temperature > 101°F for > 72 hrs)
  • Ear pain
  • Sinus-type headache
  • Unusually severe cold symptoms
  • Cough that gets worse while other cold symptoms improve
  • Flare-up of any chronic lung problem, such as asthma
  • No improvement in symptoms for more than 10 days

  • Rest - Your body needs rest to heal.
  • Hydration - Water, juice, clear broth, warm lemon water with honey all help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas because they can worsen dehydration.
  • Moisture - A humidifier or vaporizer can add moisture to the air which can loosen up mucus and decrease irritation to sore throats, stuffy noses. Try a steam shower.
  • Soothe - A salt-water gargle (¼ tsp salt dissolved in 8oz glass of warm water), cough drops, or honey in hot tea can help soothe a sore throat and improve congestion.
  • Elevate - Elevating the head of the bed uses gravity to help sinus drainage.
  • Nutrition - Eat a well-balanced diet. If you're not hungry, just make sure what you do eat has nutritional value, or take a multivitamin or vitamin supplement. Vitamins known to boost the immune system include B, C, D, and Zinc.
  • Avoid - Alcohol and smoking because they impair your body's immune system.

Contact Student Health Services with any questions or concerns about medications: (626) 395-6393

Cough, Non-productive (not coughing up phlegm)

  • Cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan (Robitussin® DM or Delsym®)
    • This should be used primarily at night to decrease cough so you can sleep

Cough, Productive (coughing up phlegm)

  • Expectorant: Mucinex® tablets or plain guaifenesin syrup, also known as Robitussin®
    • Take at least 600 mg of the active ingredient guaifenesin, twice a day
    • This thins the mucus so it's easier to cough up the mucus

Fever/Headache/Muscle Aches

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
    • You can take up to 500-650mg every 4-6 hours
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®)
    • You can take up to 600-800mg every 8 hours

Nasal Stuffiness

  • Saline nasal spray or a Neti Pot
  • Nasal steroid sprays: Flonase® or Nasacort®
  • Decongestant: Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®)
    • Prolonged use > 3days can worsen symptoms

Runny and/or Itchy Nose/Sneezing

  • Nasal steroid sprays: Flonase® or Nasacort®
  • Antihistamine: Benadryl®, which will likely cause drowsiness
  • Loratadine (Alavert®), which is not as likely to cause drowsiness

Sore Throat Pain Relief

  • Try throat sprays (Chloraseptic®)

Antibiotics. These attack bacteria, but they're no help against cold viruses. Avoid asking your doctor for antibiotics for a cold or using old antibiotics you have on hand. You won't get well any faster, and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the serious and growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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Pasadena, California 91125
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