Clinical guidance

Treating the Common Cold

Published January 1, 2022

Important note: When we list a medication — like Tylenol — we mean plain Tylenol. Other versions, like Tylenol Cold, have extra medicine that you don’t want to mix with other drugs in this list.

Fever, sore throat, headache

Take up to 800 mg of ibuprofen with food every 6 to 8 hours. Don’t take more than 2,400 mg in 24 hours. Popular brands of ibuprofen include Advil and Motrin IB.

If ibuprofen bothers your stomach, switch to Tylenol. Take up to 1,000 mg every 6 hours. Don’t take more than 4,000 mg in 24 hours.

Stuffy nose

When your nose feels stuffed up, sinus rinse kits can be really helpful — just be sure to use DISTILLED water.

If it keeps you up at night, try Afrin nasal spray as directed on the label. Use it for 3 nights in a row at most. Taking it longer can make your symptoms worse.

Stuffy sinuses

When it's your sinuses that are full and stuffy, take Sudafed as directed on the label.

Mucus in your chest

Take Mucinex as directed on the label.


At night, take up to 50 mg of Benadryl. During the day, use Delsym as directed on the label.

Alternative medicine

If you’re interested in other options, try elderberry or Umcka as directed on the label. Some people find they work well.