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Although a cold is a viral illness, antibiotics often are inappropriately prescribed to patients, even when bacterial complications (e.g., pneumonia, bacterial sinusitis) are not present.

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Furthermore, the number of participants often is small, interventions vary from individual to combination medications, compliance often is not addressed, single or multiple symptom outcomes are used, and outcomes are subjectively reported in some studies and objectively reported in others.

Not surprisingly, there is great heterogeneity among the results.

These limitations in the literature limit the ability to make confident and specific recommendations about treatments.

For clinical purposes, the literature on traditional pharmacologic treatment is best summarized by making separate recommendations for cough alone and for congestion and rhinorrhea.

Dextromethorphan may be beneficial in adults with cough, but its effectiveness has not been demonstrated in children and adolescents.