A common cold is among the most harmless yet
irritating ailment that attacks when you want to avoid it the most. A common cold is a viral infection, usually caused by a virus called rhinovirus. It affects children more commonly, and causes symptoms of sore throat
, nasal stuffiness, runny nose or nasal discharge, and sneezing.
Though we all know that it is just a matter
of a seven to ten days before we can be back to normal after a common cold
, we often take medications to stop the sneezes and the runny nose to make us feel better.
‘Antihistamines seem ineffective in common cold!’
Many of these medications are available over-the-counter. Some of these medications contain decongestants
to reduce nasal congestion. Another common ingredient in cold medications
is an antihistamine.
are of two main types - the older sedating antihistamines like diphenhydramine
and the newer less sedating or non-sedating types like cetirizine
. Antihistamines negate the effect of histamine, which is released in the body during an allergic reaction and causes symptoms like a runny nose
Therefore, they are mainly effective in allergic reactions like hay fever
The question then arises - Is an
antihistamine drug really effective in common cold? Is its use associated with
Researchers studied previously published papers on the topic
to find out the same.
Researchers included a total of 18 studies
that evaluated the use of only an antihistamine in the treatment of common
cold, with symptoms of a stuffy or runny nose and sneezing
, in adults as well as children. The
antihistamines were administered either orally or intranasally and belonged either to the sedating or non-sedating groups. Each study also had a placebo group for comparison.
The researchers found that:
- Antihistamines produced a
short-term benefit on the severity of overall
symptoms which was noted on day 1 or 2 of symptoms. However, this benefit
was not noted later, around 3 to 4 days or towards the end of the cold,
around 6 to 10 days.
- With respect to individual
symptoms of common cold like nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing,
some non-significant benefit was observed with sedating antihistamines on
runny nose. Sedating antihistamines have a drying effect on the mucous membranes, which is unrelated to its antihistamine effect.
This could explain the beneficial effects of these drugs on runny nose.
- Side effects like sedation were
more common with sedating antihistamines though it was not clinically significant.
- Only two studies were conducted in
children. Based on these studies, it is difficult to conclude that
antihistamines are useful in children with common cold.
Based on the results of this study, the
researchers feel that there is no adequate evidence to support the use of
antihistamines for the treatment of common cold. Researchers
conclude that antihistamines may not be so effective in
treating common cold
A common treatment error is the use of antibiotics
for common cold. Since common cold
is a viral infection, antibiotics are ineffective. Worse still, they can cause side effects and bacteria may develop resistance with their indiscriminate use.
Common cold usually continues with its course irrespective of whether you take any medications or not. Currently, the best remedies for common cold
are adequate rest with plenty of fluids.