The best medicines and remedies for your cold, flu and cough symptoms

Oct 7, 2019 | | Say something

Do you feel snot and sneeze? You will need more than blessings.


The cold and flu season is officially here, and if it's something like last year, the longest flu season in a decade in the United States, with 21 miserable weeks, is going to be a disaster.

For rapid recovery, rest and hydration are key, says Dr. Tania Mucci-Elliott, an internist at NYU Langone Health who specializes in infectious diseases, allergies and immunology. But it's also not embarrassing to resort to medications to relieve some of those unpleasant symptoms and speed things up.

Here, professionals recommend medications and remedies to help fight cold and flu.

The best cold medicines

Look for medications that point to mucus, which can cause a runny nose, congestion, sore throat and cough, all the worst parts of a cold. "Both colds and flu stimulate the immune system to create a ton of mucus," says Mucci-Elliott. "Therefore, you want to control the symptoms and reduce inflammation."

Start with an expectorant, which can loosen the mucus so you can cough. Robitussin is among the most common over-the-counter expectorants.

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Also take a mucolytic, such as Mucinex, which can then reduce the density of the mucus you have raised, says Mucci-Elliott, which makes it easier to get rid of it and breathe easier.

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As for the stuffy nose, look for a simple decongestant, such as Sudafed, which contains phenylephrine, an ingredient that will help reduce blood vessels in the nose so you can breathe a little more easily.

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As for natural things, "Echinacea is classic," says Rachelle Robinett, a herbalist and holistic health practitioner at Supernatural, a "plant-based wellness" coffee in Industry City. Research suggests that the herbal supplement can stimulate the immune system, which could help your body overcome the disease faster. Recommend the liquid extract of echinacea root from Herb Pharm, since it is organic and does not have the sugar that is sometimes found in herbal remedies.

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Robinett also suggests an elderberry extract to boost the immune system, useful for both fighting and preventing a cold. "It usually comes in syrup," she says. When you go shopping, look for one with "as little sugar as possible, none if you can do it", because sugar can cause inflammation, which could make cold and flu symptoms worse. She advises the liquid extract of black elderberry from Herb Pharm.

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Finally, make sure you have mom's chicken noodle soup recipe on hand. "Believe it or not, studies have shown that chicken soup can stimulate the production of … cells that fight bacteria," says Mucci-Elliott.

The best medicines for the flu

Look for the same combination as you would with a cold: mucus medications and a decongestant.

However, with most flu, fever can be the worst part. Most of the time, it's your body's natural response, and there's not much you can do, except wait for it to run its course, says Mucci-Elliott.

But if you have reached the point where you "have chills or body aches," take the recommended dose of Tylenol, which can help lower the fever to a more manageable temperature.

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Also, don't underestimate the power of hydration during the flu.

"Drink twice as much water as usual," says Robinett. "The whole issue of sneezing and runny nose is that our body eliminates bacteria or viruses, and we need additional hydration to help in the process."

In addition to good old water, Mucci-Elliott says that something with electrolytes is especially good if you have stomach flu. She prefers a low sugar Gatorade.

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An important note: whatever you are fighting, be careful not to accidentally duplicate yourself with medications that have similar ingredients. If you do, "you are getting twice the dose, and that can have side effects, such as hindering sleep," says Mucci-Elliott.

The best cough medicines, suppressants and cough drops

Look for cough drops with the ingredient glycerin, which can hydrate the throat and lubricate the vocal cords. Ocusoft green apple cough drops come with the ingredient and extra help of green apple, which can act as an anticoagulant.

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Also, look for cough drops that have honey, not honey flavoring, that can help cover the throat, says Mucci-Elliott.

The best cough suppressants have the ingredient dextromethorphan, says Mucci-Elliott. But, he adds, just take it in the amounts recommended in the box and try not to rely on it for several days in a row. Too much can make you sleepy or crazy.

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