I know that the“Season of the Fall” is here because the entire “cold remedy” section in the supermarket was simply EMPTY last week. The fruit section on the other hand was doing okay… *head desk*

I find it amazing that although everyone knows there is no cure to the “common cold’, people still think and refer to most cold remedy drugs as “cures”. Allow me to take a moment to tell you how you’re doing it wrong. Let’s take them one by one:

1. Regular stuff
Acetaminophen/Paracetamol does not help cure your cold any quicker! It does NOT. They even admit they don’t, so you can’t even blame big pharma for lying to you. It has the following effects: it is a pain reliever, a fever reducer and a very weak anti-inflammatory drug. That is all.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen and similar others have a more pronounced anti-inflammatory effect, but also do not help with reducing the time it will take you to get better. They are just meant to relieve your SYMPTOMS, making you feel better, without actually working on the cause. And don’t get me wrong, feeling better is of course not a bad thing, as long as you are aware that once the drugs kick-in, you feel better than you really are. Also, if you seem to be developing a significant fever, rather than popping more pills, a trip to the doctor is probably the better thing to do.

2. Decongestants, cough drops etc.
I think everyone is clear that these only help with the symptoms of the cold, so I won’t insist on that, but be careful on overusing any of these. You can create a ton of other problems by overusing a decongestant or using one that’s unnecessarily strong. Try natural remedies as much as possible (a hot spicy soup will usually work just as well as most OTC decongestants).

3. Antibiotics
Okay, these DO help fight the actual illness and are not OTC in most places, but I still want to touch on them. Taking antibiotics and/or antivirals should only be done after a doctor has determined the base cause of your illness (if it’s bacterial or viral, what specific bacteria/virus is causing it, how serious it is etc.) and prescribed them if necessary. Taking them for prevention is simply wrong, it’s not going to do anything good and actually might harm you – and the entire world – in the long run. Taking antibiotics because you have some “left over” from some previous illness and you think they will help is also wrong. Taking them for any LESS than the period prescribed, EVEN IF you are feeling better right away, is finally also wrong. The bottom line here is: go to doctor when you feel ill and follow the prescription precisely.

So, the point I am trying to make is that the idea that you should “take some pills” when you start feeling a cold creeping up on you is wrong. What you should “take” is care and a break. Take more vitamins (especially C and D). Eat well, stay hydrated. Take a day off and sleep. Let your body fight the illness. If colds are a common occurrence for you, work on the causes; consider improving your general health and lifestyle.

Okay, great. But if it doesn’t hurt me, why shouldn’t I take them and feel better?
Here’s a typical scenario where going crazy on OTC drugs actually starts working against you.
You take a ton of acetaminophen, decongestants etc., feel better and decide that you can go about your daily schedule as normal. The truth is though that you shouldn’t have done that and the effort of fighting the illness added to your everyday work is simply more then your organism can take. You start feeling worse until you are actually forced to take a day off (or more).

In the end, you haven’t gained anything. You still had to take the time off from school/work, but now you’ve also seriously impacted your productivity during the days in which you were trying to work through your sickness, not to mention that you’ve probably spread it to everyone that works with you. Had you just taken the time off in the beginning, you would’ve probably gotten over you sickness quicker and returned back to a normal schedule sooner. I think any reasonable manager should understand that getting everyone in the workspace sick will probably decrease the overall productivity a lot more than your short absence, no matter how crucial your position there is.

I hope next time when “that cold time of the year” comes around, instead of buying a jar of pills, you’ll go get some apples and pears and other such wonderful over-the-counter cold “remedies”.