How cold medication works

Posted on 2015-04-09 00:48:57

Most cases of cold get better within a few days without any need for medication as the immune system fights off the infection. Taking enough rest, drinking a lot of fluids, or sucking on a throat lozenge are some of the things you can do to make yourself feel better. But, at times you may need some medication to help relieve your symptoms. Though cold medications do not cure the cold, they can help ease symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, headaches, among others. It is important however, to understand the ingredients contained in a drug to match your symptoms and ensure to take the correct dosage to avoid overdose. Here is how some cold medicine work: Antihistamines When one has a cold, the body releases some chemicals known as histamines from mast cells to protect against the infection. The release of histamines causes symptoms like runny nose, watering in the eyes, and sneezing. Therefore, taking an antihistamine helps block the process by which histamines are produced hence relieving these symptoms. Antihistamines come in form of nasal sprays, oral capsules or tablets, or topical creams or gels. Though antihistamines are available over-the-counter, they may not be safe for everyone especially people who may have certain medical conditions. It is important to take antihistamines as recommended as overdose can cause sedating effects. Some common side effects associated with the use of antihistamines may include drowsiness, dry mouth, and blurred sight. Nasal decongestants Nasal decongestants are ideal for a stuffy or blocked nose. They work by reducing swelling in the nasal passageways hence making breathing easier. As a way of responding to a cold virus, the tissues inside the nose swell and produce more mucus. This causes a feeling of fullness in the head and nose i.e. congestion which can make it difficult to breathe through the nose. Decongestants can be taken orally. They are also available in form of nasal drops that are put inside the nose. Avoid using nasal decongestants for too long as they end up making the nasal congestion worse. In addition, if you have any medical condition like high blood pressure, it is good to consult a doctor before using a decongestant. Cough expectorants These help ease the congestion in the chest in the case of a productive cough.A productive cough aids in getting rid of mucus and secretions from the airways. An expectorant works by thinning the mucus (phlegm) trapped in the airways, thus when one coughs, it becomes easier to remove more phlegm. Getting rid of phlegm from the airways helps at easing coughing. Cough suppressants If you have a dry cough with no production of mucus, taking an expectorant will not work. A dry cough happens as a result of inflammation in the upper airways which the brain deems as an unwanted object. The brain therefore reacts by coughing in an attempt to get rid of the inflammation. So, taking a cough suppressant helps ease the cough by blocking or suppressing the cough reflex. Pain relievers Having a cold can bring about symptoms of aches and fever. These symptoms can cause a lot of discomfort and make rest a problem. Therefore, you may need to take an over the counter pain reliever such as a paracetamolor ibuprofen to ease the aches and bring the fever down.These may also be added in some medicines used to treat cold. Hence, if you are taking cold medicine it is important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist prior to taking painkillers. Keep in mind that cold medicines are only aimed at relieving the symptoms associated with cold and not curing it. Cold medicines are not recommended for children below four years and it is thus important to consult a doctor before deciding to give them to your child. By Rebecca Muthoni