Best over-the-counter cold and throat medicines, according to a doctor

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If COVID-19 wasn’t enough, we now have a common cold going around. In other words, “that bug,” which is causing fatigue, a sore throat and a cough — and waking you up in the middle of the night.

It’s more important than ever to know which pills, sprays and treatments to have on hand and ready for sluggish days of feeling not-so-good.

So, what exactly is this bug that’s going around?

“Rhinovirus is one of the bigger types of the common cold, where you may experience a cough, cold, congestion and sometimes a mild fever,” Bindiya Gandhi, MD, board-certified in family and integrated medicine with more than 10 years of experience, told The Post. “Sometimes, it can be confused with allergies, depending on the time of year, because there are fall allergies aside from spring.”

The common cold can last anywhere from three to 10 days, she added.

What’s the difference between the common cold and COVID-19 symptoms?

“The cough and congestion levels can be similar but the main difference is that COVID-19 symptoms tend to be more respiratory-related, like shortness of breath,” she said. “People also experience loss of taste, smell, and some gastrointestinal issues, whether that’s nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”

Because some symptoms overlap, Dr. Gandhi recommended taking a COVID-19 swab test, even if experiencing a mild cold or cough. “Nine times out of 10, it could be a common cold, but it’s good to assess if it’s something more severe.”

Can I take Advil or Tylenol to treat my cold?

Here’s the scoop: Advil is ibuprofen and, since acetaminophen works best for fevers and mild body aches, you’ll want to take Tylenol, according to Gandhi. “You can alternate acetaminophen with ibuprofen for fevers. If you have any liver issues, you don’t want to take acetaminophen and if you have any kidney issues, you don’t want to take ibuprofen,” she explains.

What medicines should I take to prevent a cold?

Below, find some over-the-counter products to take — especially if you want to say nuh-uh to that bug. But be sure to speak with your doctor to address any health concerns.

“Make sure you get seven to eight hours of quality sleep, minimize alcohol, sugary and processed foods, as that can weaken your immune system,” Gandhi added. “Make sure you’re getting good exercise and keeping stress down — stress weakens your immune system and can get you sick.”

Align Dualbiotic, Prebiotic + Probiotic for Men and Women, $21.99 (originally $24.99)

  • Count: 60 gummies

“Probiotics are a great supplement to take first thing in the morning on an empty stomach because it helps boost your immune system,” Gandhi said.

Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C 500mg Supplement, $10.69 (originally $16.99)

  • Count: 250 tablets

“Vitamin C is another preventative I highly recommend with a minimum dose of 500 mg,” she said. “You can go up, as tolerated.”

NatureWise Vitamin D3 2000 IU, $14.49

  • Count: 360 mini soft gels

“Vitamin D is another great vitamin to take to help boost your immune system, especially if you’re deficient — which is the case for the majority of the population,” she said. “Taking a 2000 IU is helpful, and make sure it’s vitamin D3 because it’s the most active form.”

Sandhu Herbals Zinc 50mg Supplement, $12.95

  • Count: 120 tablets

“Zinc is good to take all year round, especially during cold and flu season,” she said. “I recommend a minimum of 50 mg. If you take too much or on an empty stomach, you may experience some nausea and vomiting.”

NatureWise Curcumin Turmeric 2250mg Supplement, $23.99

  • Count: 180 tablets

“Curcumin is a component of turmeric and has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties,” she said.

Nature’s Way Astragalus Root 1,410mg Supplement, $13.49 (originally $17.99)

  • Count: 180 tablets

Gandhi said astragalus is good for prevention, especially for immune support.

What medicines should I take to treat a cold?

Thorne Research Glycine, $24

  • Count: 250 tablets

“Glycine is good for treating viral infections,” Gandhi said. She recommended taking a glycine supplement at the onset of a cold.

Tylenol Extra Strength Acetaminophen Caplets, $9.47

  • Count: 100 tablets

“I recommend having Tylenol on board, especially if you have a mild fever,” she said.

Zyrtec 24-Hour Allergy Relief Tablets, $26.48

  • Count: 45 tablets (plus, 3 to-go tablets with the bundle)

“Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra or a general antihistamine is something I would keep if you are experiencing allergies,” Gandhi said.

What’s more, seasonal allergy symptoms overlap with some cold symptoms. “You may experience watery eyes, a runny nose, a drier cough — maybe a tickle sensation at the back of your throat, and itchy or popping ears,” she added.

Mucinex Chest Congestion Maximum Strength 12-Hour Tablets, $24.48 (originally $29.99)

  • Count: 42 tablets

Gandhi recommended Mucinex as a “good cough medicine” for most people, but be sure to check with your doctor about your blood levels before use.

Manukora Multifloral Raw Manuka Honey, $14.99

“Not everyone does well with guaifenesin, which is a good cough medicine [the general form of Mucinex] because it can raise your blood pressure,” she said. “I’ll recommend manuka honey or buckwheat honey. Studies have shown it helps with your cough, especially if you take it at nighttime.

Gandhi explained that the only precaution with buckwheat or manuka honey is if you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic — just watch your blood sugar levels.

Amazon Basic Care Premium Saline Nasal Moisturizing Spray, $6.82

“I’ll usually recommend using a nasal saline spray when you already have a cold,” she said. “It’s good to help rinse out pathogens from your nasal pathway to help improve breathing.”

Plus, it can be used with other over-the-counter or prescribed medications, per Gandhi.

Hall’s Relief Variety Pack Cough Drops (6-Pack), $14

  • Count: 150 total drops

“Over-the-counter lozenges are good for a sore throat,” she said. “The only problem with them is that they have a lot of sugar, but they do help soothe the throat.”

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