Hey, Doc, What Do I take For a Cold? Nothing!

Americans are an impatient lot. They’re also eternal optimists. They believe there are drugs out there that can make a cold go away faster than its own, in large part genetically predetermined, timeline.

I do try to get people to specify which symptoms they feel they must control or modify while they wait for the illness to run its course, and I try to give a balanced view of the pros and cons of the different remedies.

For example, if your nose runs like a faucet and that would be embarrassing during a Zoom interview, you could take a decongestant pill or even a nasal decongestant spray. But if you take a decongestant consistently so that you might not have to wipe or blow your nose at all, your secretions could get thicker and get stuck in your sinuses. That’s how you get a sinus infection. And nasal decongestant sprays can over time (5 days or more) cause a rebound congestion. If you then escalate your dosing to relieve the second wave of congestion, you can end up with sores and even a perforation of your nasal septum from too much constriction of blood flow.

Cough suppressants may decrease your cough frequency, but what if you then don’t raise all the gunk in your bronchial tubes? Couldn’t that make you get sicker or take longer to clear your bronchitis? I don’t know, but is it worth the risk?

Treating body aches with acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen can make us feel better, but eliminating a low grade fever is said to possibly delay the clearing of a viral infection. So, how necessary is it to make yourself feel less sick than you actually are?

Before Covid, Americans tended to take drugs to hide their colds so they could go to work, attend gatherings and not miss out on life’s happenings (or their paychecks). Maybe we have now all learned to hunker down, “self quarantine” and keep our viruses to ourselves.

Rest, hot tea, lemon, honey, blankets and long naps may be the best way to get through our illness. “Fighting” a cold may be an outdated concept as we move forward? The over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry might not like it, but I think that would be a good thing.

4 Responses to “Hey, Doc, What Do I take For a Cold? Nothing!”


  1. 1 Isobel Potts June 16, 2021 at 11:26 am

    ‘A cold lasts seven days without treatment, but a week if you take medicine!’

  2. 2 John R. Dykers, Jr. MD June 16, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Dr. Dykers Cold Medicine helped patients feel better while they recovered without antibiotics. Liquid antihistamine, decongestant, and robitussin, half and half withe etoh. Tablespoon tid and the side effects were minimal, but, as with all medicines, overdosing was paramount.

  3. 3 Lisa June 19, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    You seem very optimistic in the common sense of people. My inner cynic tells me that people will fall easily back into their habits once the threat is over, whatever they perceive that to be. I tell myself that I have learned the magic of the mask. Eighteen months without flus and almost no colds convinced me of the value of wearing one. I will still be donning them long after they have gone out of fashion.

    • 4 John R. Dykers, Jr. MD June 20, 2021 at 1:37 pm

      Habits. “How To Be A Happy Former Smoker(Even if you don’t want to)”
      Colds. Dr. Dykers Cold Medicine to feel better and keep for the next one.
      Masks may well deter the next one; aerosols and droplets. Wash your hands.
      I like shaking hands again. Bought a pre built garage from a new dealer during Covid and never felt the deal was done even after garage was up and paid for; we never “shook on the deal”.


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