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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Common Cold

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Common Cold [posted 12/08/98]
Question: Last cold season my 3 year old daughter was sick frequently, as a result I have several bottles of medicine 'left over'. Some are almost full because she ended up in the hospital and didn't need them after she got out. My questions are can I still use them (there are no experation dates)? And can you tell me if they are cough suppressants, expectorants, or some thing elce all together. They are ALBUTEROL, PANCOF, PAN-MIST, ENTEX, and PRELONE. Thank You

Answer: Probably ok if kept in a controlled temperature environment. But, the technical expiration dates for most of these are a year.

Common Cold
Question: What is the best way to treat a cold?

Answer: Currently, there’s nothing better than rest, plenty of fluids, something for fever, and chicken soup.

Ongoing cold
Question: I have had an on going cold for approximately 6 weeks. The symptoms are stuffy/runny nose and an annoying wheezy cough with phlegm. I have been to my doctor and she first prescribed 500 mg of amoxicillin that I had taken for approximately 15 days and was not effective. She then prescribed 500 mg of Biaxin tablet ABB, which takes the edge off but is still not making me any better. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to get better. I am getting plenty of sleep.

Answer: You have been on two good broad spectrum antibiotics. I suspect that this is a virus and only time and rest will help. However, you could have a variation of mild asthma and chronic bronchitis, which will take longer antibiotic treatment and possible inhalers. Bring this possibility to your physician. This is very possible if you have ever had any trace of asthma.

Cold medication
Question: Can you comment why the warning about thyroid disease is on so many cold remedies?

Answer: Many cold remedy medications, both prescription, as well as “over the counter”/non-prescription, contain a medication known as pseudepherine, which is in the same family of chemical as the adrenaline (epinephrine) produced by our own adrenal glands. This cold remedy formula has many effects. Among them are the constriction of small blood vessels- the idea being to constrict the blood vessels of the inflamed nasal lining and sinus lining, and thus reduce the symptoms of a cold, or congestion. However, other effects, including those on blood pressure include heart rate and force of contraction, are also important, and can readily interact with similar effects from other medications. These other medications, as stated on medication packaging includes those used to treat thyroid disorders, hypertension, and heart disease. If you are taking medications for these conditions, you should take cold remedy medications only on the advice, and under the supervision of, your physician.

Question: I have a 6 year old son who is constantly sick with a cold and/or an ear infection. He eats healthy food - vegetables and fruit (fresh), drinks lots of water (prefers it over pop or juice) and exercises a lot. He just always seems to be sick.

Answer: Any involvement with his tonsils? This is a common problem in this age group and although less frequent than 30 years ago, tonsillectomy for removing diseased tonsils is often helpful in reducing or eliminating recurrent infections.

Common Cold
Question: My girlfriend had a kidney transplant 2 years ago and she takes the normal range of immunosupressant drugs. This makes her more susceptable to colds, which she currently has. I have Muscular Dystrophy and can't afford to catch a cold because it usually leads to me developing pneumonia. We have both had our annual flu shots. How long should I stay away from my girlfriend before the risk of catching her cold is minimal?

Answer: The time to lack of infectivity of most oral viral infections tends to be about 7-10 days. However, these studies were performed in patients with intact immune systems. I'd guess it'd be similar for you, but wait until her symptoms are absent, or use a barrier mask.

Cold Medication
Question: Which cold relief medication do you recommend the most to your patients, and why?

Answer:I usually don't recommend any specific treatment other than either aspirin or Tylenol, certainly, no antibiotics.

Cold Symptoms
Question: Dear doctor, I have a terrible cold right now. It started out as a slightly sore throat and aches and after approx. 48 hours the symptoms were gone THEN came the sinus!! and kapowee!!! My question to you is every cold I get, the symptoms are the same, but, in different order! And also why does the stuffy sinus change sides? One minute I cant breathe out of my left nostril and then its fine, but then its my right side. Back and forth back and forth. and one more question, what color does the phlegm have to be for it to be an infection verses a virus.

Answer: Your body alternates the nostril through which you breath on a regular basis. When you are sick you notice it; because you have more trouble breathing. It's hard to know if colored phlegm means a bacterial source versus a virus. We certainly treat it that way-probably based on the fact that some bacteria produce color as they reproduce and anaerobic infections also produce color(something a virus isn't).

Post-Nasal Drip
Question: I just went to the doctor today who told me that I had post-nasal drip. I had woken up on Sunday with a very bad sore throat. Sunday night I started with a fever and chills. I didn’t go to work for two days due to fever and sore throat. Are these common symptoms due to post-nasal drip?

Answer: Sounds like your physician missed the diagnosis. This sounds like an infection.

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