The Best Cold Medicines

The trees and flowers are blooming, and it is slowly warming up outside. It is that time of the year again, in between seasonal transitions. The time of year that many of us contract colds, which are never fun. Even if we take our vitamins every day, none of us are immune to getting the common cold. But there are plenty of medicines out there that can help to alleviate the symptoms of a cold quickly. While a good detox for your body is a wonderful idea as well, if you do find yourself with a cold, we’ve found some of the best medicines.

You can get back to living life without worrying about a runny nose or congestion or cough getting in your way with these medicines. We reviewed dozens of cold medicines to identify the best of the best. It is best to check with your primary care provider before starting any new medication. We considered ingredients, length of treatment and more in our search.*

Best Cold Medicine Overall
Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Cold & Cough Medicine
Maximum relief for the toughest colds.

The clear frontrunner for the best cold medicine is Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Cold & Cough Medicine. It is maximum strength, so you are getting the best symptom relief that you can find.

The 5 Top-Rated Cold Medicines

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Cold Medicine OverallAlka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Gels 4.5
Best Non-Drowsy Cold MedicineTheraflu ExpressMax Syrup 4.1
Best Budget Cold MedicineVicks Sinex Severe LiquiCaps4.6
Best Daytime Cold MedicineCONTAC Cold + Flu Daytime Caplets4.5
Best Nighttime Cold MedicineGoodSense Nighttime Cold and Flu Relief 4.7

Best Cold Medicine Overall: Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Gels

Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Gels come in a convenient capsule form, which they have recently resized to make it 25% smaller, making it easier to take. It will relieve all the common symptoms of a cold. This includes runny nose, congestion, cough and body aches. The medication begins working very quickly after taking it, due to them being in gelcap form. Your worst symptoms will be relieved and you can get back to doing what you love most without having to worry about those symptoms getting in your way.

The active ingredients include acetaminophen, for your body aches, as well as reducing any fever, phenylephrine hydrochloride, to help stop runny noses, and dextromethorphan hydrobromide to help with your cough. One dose will provide approximately four hours of relief. Unlike some other cold medications, this medicine does not have to be taken with meals and can be taken at any time. This medicine works hard to break up mucus and congestion, and can even help with sinus pressure, so you won’t have any pesky sinus headaches. The concentrated gel in this liquid capsule will have you feeling better and back on your feet in no time at all.

Alka-Seltzer Plus Powermax Gels Key Features:

  • 25% smaller capsules
  • Gelcap form assures quick medicine delivery
  • Does not need to be taken with food
  • Breaks up mucus and congestion with ease

Best Non-Drowsy Cold Medicine: Theraflu ExpressMax Syrup

Best Non-Drowsy Cold Medicine
Theraflu ExpressMax Syrup
Fast-acting and non-drowsy.

While some cold medicines can make you drowsy, Theraflu ExpressMax Syrup is not going to be one of those. This maximum-strength berry-flavored cough syrup has a warming sensation on your throat when taken to help eliminate itchy and scratchy throats. It helps with all the typical symptoms of a cold. It will relieve symptoms for up to four hours. Do you have sinus congestion and a headache to go with it? This medication has got you covered so you can get back to life as usual.

It is an easy-to-take formula, as it is liquid. That also means that it will begin to work faster than a pill would. This medication also works as a temporary fever reducer. This liquid is the most powerful cold medication that you can get without a prescription. Kicking your cough to the curb will be easy when you take this.

Theraflu ExpressMax Syrup Key Features:

  • Non-drowsy
  • Relieves the most stubborn symptoms
  • Berry flavored
  • Most powerful medicine you can get without a prescription

Best Budget Cold Medicine: Vicks Sinex Severe LiquiCaps

Best Budget Cold Medicine
Vicks Sinex Severe LiquiCaps
Complete relief of your worst symptoms.

Vicks Sinex Severe LiquiCaps is a great choice for keeping even your worst cold symptoms at bay. Working in as little as 30 minutes when taken as directed, you can get back to what you were doing before your cold symptoms hit. The liquicaps help to thin and loosen otherwise stubborn mucus that often accompanies colds. It also provides great relief from sinus pain and headaches. These are maximum strength, so you can get back to being you in as little as a half-hour.

No matter how stuffy or congested that you may be, this all-in-one does it all. After taking this medication, you will soon be able to breathe freely without having to blow your nose constantly. While it has powerful ingredients to clear up your sinuses, it also contains a pain reliever/fever reducer, and guaifenesin to loosen up mucus buildup. They can be taken every four hours, but not to exceed any more than four doses in 24 hours.

Vicks Sinex Severe LiquiCaps Key Features:

  • Works in as little as 30 minutes
  • Loosens stubborn mucus
  • Treats all symptoms of a cold
  • Soothes nasal passages so you can breathe freely

Best Daytime Cold Medicine: CONTAC Cold + Flu Daytime Caplets

Best Daytime Cold Medicine
CONTAC Cold + Flu Daytime Caplets
Daytime relief of cold symptoms.

If you are looking for a daytime cold medicine that can do it all, CONTAC Cold + Flu Daytime Caplets are exactly what you need. If you are suffering from all of the classic symptoms of a cold, like sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, and cough, this will do the trick. The medication contains the maximum amount of active ingredients. These pills are totally non-drowsy, so you will not be feeling tired after taking it.

With a powerful combination of three different medications in one dose, you can get rid of your worst symptoms in one swift dose. It also has an ingredient that works as a fever reducer, as well. The medicine itself comes in an easy to take caplet form. They even help to reduce sinus pressure and pain. With this daytime cold medicine, you will feel like your normal self in no time at all.

CONTACT Cold + Flu Daytime Caplets Key Features:

  • Non-drowsy
  • Maximum strength
  • Reduces sinus pressure
  • Three powerful medications in one

Best Nighttime Cold Medicine: GoodSense Nighttime Cold and Flu Relief

Best Nighttime Cold Medicine
GoodSense Nighttime Cold and Flu Relief
Sleep well without your symptoms bothering you.

The multi-symptom relief that you will find with GoodSense Nighttime Cold and Flu Relief is unparalleled. With the maximum amount of ingredients, it will allow you to get a good nights sleep without any of your cold symptoms bothering you, so you can wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and brand new. It works on all the typical symptoms of a cold, including fever.

Should you need it, you can take this medicine every six hours, but do not exceed more than four doses in a 24 hour period. It has a powerful antihistamine in it in order to control sneezing and a runny nose. It comes in an easy to take cherry-flavored syrup, so your throat will not have to be irritated taking a pill. If a good night’s sleep is what you need, then this cold medication will do the trick for you.

GoodSense Nighttime Cold and Flu Relief Key Features:

  • Easy to take syrup
  • Has antihistamine to help a runny nose
  • Relieves fever
  • Helps to get a good night’s sleep

Who Should Buy Cold Medicine

The most important thing to do is to first make an appointment to see your doctor to make certain that you do not have any underlying conditions that are causing your symptoms. You want to make sure that all you have is indeed a cold. If you do have a cold and are experiencing symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, and a mild cough, cold medicine will be able to help you alleviate those symptoms. If these symptoms keep you awake at night and unable to sleep, you can opt for a nighttime cold medicine, which usually has an ingredient in it that can help you to sleep.

Cold medicines sometimes have antihistamines in them, as well. If you are experiencing a runny nose along with a bit of a cough, and you have allergies, certain cold medicines are able to help with that as well.

Best Cold Medicine Overall
Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Cold & Cough Medicine
Maximum relief for the toughest colds.

Important Features To Consider

When purchasing a cold medicine, there are a few factors that you want to look at. You want to make sure that you are able to take it and that the ingredients in it do not interact with anything else that you may be taking. Other things to consider are the length of treatment and more. Here is what to consider when selecting cold medicine.

  • Ingredients. This is quite possibly the largest thing to pay attention to when it comes to selecting a cold medicine for yourself or someone else. Make sure to take a good look at the list of active ingredients. You want to make sure that you are not allergic to any of them. In addition, you do not want any of the active ingredients to possibly interact with any other medications or supplements that you may also be taking. If you have high blood pressure, you may need to take a different kind of cold medicine. If you have any questions, it is always best to contact your doctor’s office. They will be able to help you choose the correct cold medicine for you.
  • Length Of Treatment. Cold medicines have varying lengths of time that they work. There are ones that work for four hour periods, while others work for six. There are even cold medications that work for a full 24-hours. You will want to choose one that is best for you. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a duo pack of daytime and nighttime medicine might be your best bet.
  • Strength. Cold medicines can come in different strengths. The cold medicine that you ultimately choose is up to you, and how bad your symptoms are. There are medications with higher strength acetaminophen to ease aches, pains, and to reduce fever. Other medications have fewer of them. You have to gauge how you feel in order to find out what strength of cold medicine is best for you and your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do doctors prescribe for the common cold?

In most cases, doctors do not typically prescribe anything for a simple common cold. Antibiotics are totally ineffective against a cold virus. Those are only used if there is an underlying bacterial infection. Instead, a doctor may tell you to try an over-the-counter cold medicine, like the ones discussed here in this article. The ultimate goal of dealing with a cold is dealing with the symptoms. That is where cold medicine comes in to treat the runny noses, coughs, sinus headaches and aches.

Does drinking hot water help to get rid of a cold?

While drinking hot water can certainly help a sore throat, it does not make a cold go away any faster, but rather relieve a few symptoms. Another idea, in addition to drinking hot water, is to try a cup of hot tea, especially at night if you need help falling asleep. A good nighttime tea can help not only soothe your sore throat but taking in the steam from the hot liquid can help unclog your sinuses a little bit.

How long does a cold last?

In an otherwise healthy adult, a cold can last anywhere from seven to ten days. First, you have your incubation period, which is when you were exposed to the virus and begin to show symptoms. That can be anywhere from one to three days. Cold symptoms like the cough, runny nose, and sore throat will begin to peak between another one to three days. After that, it will begin to level off and symptoms will start to fade. However, if you have a cough with your cold, it could take a bit longer for the cough to go away.

Why is my cold not going away?

If you have tried cold medicine for a number of days and you do not notice any difference in your symptoms, or if they get worse, you may want to give your doctor a call. They might want to see you and make sure that your cold has not developed into something else.

Other Cold Medicines We Reviewed

Best Cold Medicine Overall
Alka-Seltzer Plus PowerMax Cold & Cough Medicine
Maximum relief for the toughest colds.

We looked at 20 other cold medicines. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best cold medicines list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option to help treat your cold. The information that you will need to compare each one is included with the listing.

Cold & Flu Medicine

Advil Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu

Advil Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu

With just one tablet, this cold and flu medicine treats all of your symptoms. It features a triple-ingredient formula to get you on your feet faster.

Key Features:

  • Fights eight symptoms
  • Reduces nasal swelling
  • One convenient dose

Cost: $26

Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine

Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine

While this may say it is a cold formula, it treats all the symptoms of flu as well. It treats symptoms quickly and easily.

Key Features:

  • Orange zest flavored
  • Dissolves easily in water
  • Quick-relief

Cost: $5

Coricidin HBP Cold & Flu Tablets

Coricidin HBP Cold & Flu Tablets

This cold and flu medicine is made specifically for those who have high blood pressure. It relieves all symptoms of cold and flu without compromising quality.

Key Features:

  • Comes in tablet form
  • Decongestant free
  • Even relieves headache

Cost: $6

Tylenol Cold & Flu Severe

Tylenol Cold + Flu Severe

This is a dual pack with both daytime and nighttime formulas. It is powerful at loosening stubborn chest congestion.

Key Features:

  • Nighttime caplets contain an antihistamine
  • Easy to swallow caplets
  • Can be taken every four hours

Cost: $6

Nature’s Way Umcka Elderberry Intensive Cold Plus Flu Syrup *

Nature's Way Umcka Elderberry Intensive Cold Plus Flu Syrup

This is a natural homeopathic remedy with elderberry to help relieve your cold and flu symptoms. It is in an easy to take syrup form.

Key Features:

  • No artificial colors
  • Made with black elderberry extract
  • No preservatives

Cost: $13
*These statements have not been evaluated by the drug and food administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Cold Medicine For Kids

Dimetapp Cold & Cough

Dimetapp Cold & Cough

A trusted brand for years, this cold and cough syrup will have your little one feeling better in no time. It helps relieve nasal and other symptoms.

Key Features:

  • Grap flavored syrup
  • Helps relieve itchy and watery eyes
  • Comes in a convenient three-pack

Cost: $20

Mucinex Children’s Multi-Symptom Cold & Cough

Mucinex Children's Multi-Symptom Cold & Cough

This value pack contains both a day and a nighttime formula. It helps to relieve even the worst cold symptoms in your child.

Key Features:

  • Breaks up chest congestion and mucus
  • “Very Berry” flavored syrup
  • Alcohol-free

Cost: $16

Rite Aid Children’s Cold & Cough Syrup

 Rite Aid Children's Cold & Cough Syrup

This cold and cough syrup for children offers multi-symptom relief. It even relieves itchy and watery eyes.

Key Features:

  • Red grape flavored
  • Alcohol-free
  • Easy to take formula

Cost: $6

Vicks Children’s Cough and Congestion Relief

Vicks Children's Cough and Congestion Relief

This medicine takes on your children’s worst cold symptoms without anything artificial. It is a strawberry-flavored syrup.

Key Features:

  • Alcohol-free
  • No high-fructose corn syrup
  • Non-drowsy formula

Cost: $8

Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Cough Syrup *

Zarbee's Naturals Children's Cough Syrup

An all-natural homeopathic remedy made with dark honey to help with your child’s cough and mucus. It soothes coughs and helps sore throats.

Key Features:

  • Natural cherry flavor
  • Honey-based to help a sore throat
  • Gluten-free

Cost: $7

*These statements have not been evaluated by the drug and food administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Cold Medicine For Runny Nose

Advil Allergy & Congestion Relief

Best Cold Medicine For Runny Nose

In just one pill, you will feel powerful relief from your toughest congestion symptoms. The antihistamine and anti-congestant work together to clear your sinuses.

Key Features:

  • Helps nasal swelling
  • Quells sneezing
  • Also helps with itchy and watery eyes

Cost: $20

Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe Sinus

Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe Sinus

Powerful and effective relief in a liquid gel caplet. It offers fast relief from the worst congestion symptoms.

Key Features:

  • 25% smaller pill
  • Treats cough
  • Relieves headaches and pain

Cost: $9

Sinus Relief by Hyland’s Defend *

Sinus Relief by Hyland's Defend

Hylands is an all-natural way to relieve congestion and sinus symptoms. It is homeopathic and non-habit forming.

Key Features:

  • Quick-dissolving tablets
  • Speeds up healing
  • Relieves pain

Cost: $3

*These statements have not been evaluated by the drug and food administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Basic Care Severe Congestion Nasal Spray

Basic Care Severe Congestion Nasal Spray

This nasal spray offers 12 hours of relief. It can also help relieve symptoms of hay fever.

Key Features:

  • Quick-relief
  • No-drip spray
  • Shrinks swollen nasal membranes

Cost: $8

Robitussin Honey Adult Maximum Strength Cough Suppressant & Antihistamine

Robitussin Honey Adult Maximum Strength Cough Suppressant & Antihistamine

Using the power of real honey, this medicine will quell your cough and relieve sneezing and a runny nose. It contains no artificial colors.

Key Features:

  • Gluten-free
  • 19.2% natural grade A honey
  • Helps with upper respiratory allergies

Cost: $10

Best Cold Medicine For Cough

Boericke & Tafel Nighttime Cough & Bronchial Syrup *

Boericke & Tafel Nighttime Cough & Bronchial Syrup

A homeopathic remedy for quelling nighttime coughs, you can sleep well with this syrup. It has no artificial flavors or colors.

Key Features:

  • Soothes the throat and clears bronchial congestion
  • Promotes good sleep
  • Non-narcotic

Cost: $10
*These statements have not been evaluated by the drug and food administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Buckley’s Original Complete Syrup

Buckley's Original Complete Syrup

This medicine is made with Canada balsam, as well as acetaminophen. It can kick your cough to the curb quickly.

Key Features:

  • Made in Canada
  • Sucrose free
  • Also relieves fever and chills

Cost: $22

Creomulsion Adult Cough Medicine

Creomulsion Adult Cough Medicine

This a super effective formula for suppressing your cough. It soothes raw membranes.

Key Features:

  • Rich base soothes the throat
  • No artificial flavors
  • Alcohol-free

Cost: $13

Robitussin Adult Long-Acting CoughGels

Robitussin Adult Long-Acting CoughGels

These long-acting cough gels give up to eight whole hours of relief from coughing. They are easy to take soft gel capsules.

Key Features:

  • Helps reduce the urge to cough
  • Non-drowsy
  • Great for lingering coughs

Cost: $7

ValuMeds Mucus Relief Caplets

ValuMeds Mucus Relief Caplets

With a strong active ingredient, this medicine will put your cough to rest. They are extended-release caplets.

Key Features:

  • Dual-layered
  • Loosens up phlegm
  • Small, easy to swallow caplets

Cost: $13