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Other Options

If you notice a lot more mucus than normal and you have a cold, over-the-counter decongestants that include pseudoephedrine can provide relief, Kemmerly says. Even though they're not prescription drugs, you'll need to get those from your pharmacist and show an ID.

Before taking any products containing pseudoephedrine, talk to your doctor if you have ever had high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, an enlarged prostate gland, or thyroid or heart disease.

Guaifenesin, a mucus thinner found in several over-the-counter cough and cold drugs, may be another option. “Some of my patients swear by it,” Nayak says. Don't give products containing guaifenesin to a child younger than 4. If you're giving them to an older child, follow the directions on the package exactly.

Antihistamines can also help if you have a cold. Just don't overdo it. They dry up mucus, but "sometimes it dries it up so much that it can't drain, which causes more misery," Kemmerly says. There are different types of antihistamines, and your pharmacist can help you decide what type to try.

If you ask your doctor, let them know what you've already taken.

Kemmerly prefers to let the body heal itself whenever possible.

“The body is designed to do this,” she says. “In mild cases, the best advice we like to give our patients is do nothing except drink plenty of water. Available treatments may make you feel better, but they don’t alter the course of your illness.”

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