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Congestion, Sore Throat & Cough

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Congestion, Sore Throat, and/or Cough

Viruses are the cause of the “Common Cold” and the vast majority of Upper Respiratory Infections-URI’s. The symptoms can last from 2 days to 2 weeks, but most last about 1 week. The symptoms are self-limiting; which means they will resolve on their own without any treatment. Occasionally, the virus may cause fever, headache, body aches, fatigue or weakness.

For congestion

  • Drink plenty of fluids! – Fluids help to thin the mucus and encourage drainage from a “stopped-up” nose
  • Increase the humidity in your environment – showers, humidifiers, hot soup and warm beverages
  • Get plenty of rest – limit your activities as best you can
  • Sleep with your shoulders, neck and head elevated – this will help you breathe a little easier at night
  • Saline nasal spray will help clear and decrease swelling in nasal passages
  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications specific to your symptoms – these medications will not shorten the length of the illness but may provide some temporary relief from the symptoms. Decongestants, antihistamines and expectorants such as Tylenol Cold products, Dayquil, Nyquil, Sudafed Nondrying, Claritin , and Mucinex may be helpful. Regular Tylenol or Advil will help with body aches and fever.
  • Clear to lightly colored mucus, especially in the morning or evening, is very common with viral infections

For sore throat

  • Gargle with warm salt water (½ teaspoon of salt per 6-8 oz. glass of warm water ) will help soothe your throat
  • Hard candy and/or throat lozenges or sprays may help with throat pain/irritation
  • Tylenol or Advil may provide some relief
  • Eating small amounts of food frequently will help clear the postnasal mucus from the back of your throat

For cough

  • Use OTC cough suppressants sparingly. Expectorants (guaifenesin) are helpful in “breaking up” a cough. Coughing is the body’s attempt to clear the breathing passages.
  • Totally suppressing the cough may lead to lung infections.

SEEK MEDICAL HELP IF:

  • Fever of 101 or over for two or more days
  • Severe sore throat and fever only, for longer than 2 days
  • Dark colored, thick mucus consistently from nose or cough
  • Breathing is difficult or painful or if you are wheezing
  • Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks
Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses.
Patience, fluids, OTC medications and time is generally all that is needed.

Last edited by abaugues@unca.edu on December 7, 2010