Which cold medicine is best?

No one likes to get sick. Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American adults typically contract two to three colds per year. Since life and responsibilities cannot be paused, it is essential to start feeling better as soon as possible. Selecting the right cold medicine is the key to achieving this goal. With its fast-acting and effective formula, the Mucinex Fast-Max — Day And Night Formula dual pack is the best pick for helping you feel better quickly.

What to know before you buy cold medicine


Before adding a brand-new cold medicine to your medicine cabinet, it is important to ask yourself, “What is the best cold medicine for my symptoms?” Once you’ve checked that your symptoms align with the common cold (e.g. runny nose, chills, sinus pressure), find a medication that treats your most bothersome symptoms.

For example, if you have a bad sore throat, choose a medication that addresses this specific symptom. Since medications are formulated differently to address certain concerns, selecting a cold medicine at random isn’t always effective. Look for varieties that specifically state that they can relieve every symptom that you’re experiencing. These medicines may not cure your symptoms entirely, but they’ll relieve your symptoms temporarily.


Upon researching various formulations, you’ll quickly notice that ingredients vary across brands. This is primarily because certain individuals have health conditions that can flare up after consuming certain ingredients. For example, those with kidney or liver disease should use cold medicine without acetaminophen. Additionally, certain cold medicine ingredients can cause a rise in blood pressure, which can be dangerous for those who have high blood pressure. Always choose a cold medicine that is safe for any and every health condition you are experiencing.

Frequency of dosage

For convenience, some individuals prefer taking doses of their cold medicine less frequently. If you fall into this category, seek a cold medicine that offers 6 or more hours of symptom relief. Those who do not have dosage frequency preferences can skip this consideration altogether.

What to look for in a quality cold medicine


Whether taking a sore throat or chest cold medicine, everyone desires medication that works as rapidly as possible. Nowadays, the majority of brands offer quick-acting formulas. People who want a cold medicine that will work even quicker should consider liquid or gel caps.

Alleviates all common symptoms

Top-quality cold medicines typically address a host of common symptoms. The best options offer effective relief of nearly every cold symptom. This is achieved by the blending of multiple ingredients that work together to address as many aches and pains as possible.

Tastes good

Remember the terrible taste of liquid cold medicines from the past? Brands have improved their formulations significantly in the last few decades. Most now have a tolerable (and sometimes pleasant) flavor.


As much as you may want to, life cannot be put on hold during a cold. When tackling your daily duties while in the thick of your symptoms, nondrowsy formulations are a game-changer. Cold medicines that do not include sleep-inducing ingredients are just as effective as those that do cause drowsiness.

How much you can expect to spend on cold medicine

One bottle of quality cold medicine can range between $5-$15.

Cold medicine FAQ

Can anyone take any kind of cold medicine?

A. No. Before taking a new cold medicine, you should always check with your doctor to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with your medications or health conditions.

Should I buy liquid medicine, gel capsules or standard tablets?

A. This decision is completely up to your preference. However, keep in mind that liquid gel caps and liquids do work faster than solid tablets.

Do holistic brands work well?

A. Most brands of holistic cold medicine are intended to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms over several days. While these products can work quicker than this, they are often not intended for fast symptom relief.

What’s the best cold medicine to buy?

Top cold medicine

Mucinex Fast-Max - Day And Night Formula

Mucinex Fast-Max — Day And Night Formula 

What you need to know: Providing both nondrowsy and nighttime relief, this dual pack of liquid cold medicine provides fast relief of all common cold symptoms.

What you’ll love: The Mucinex Fast-Max — Day And Night Formula combo provides all-in-one relief of nine symptoms (including nasal congestion, headache and cough). The evening formulation is designed to promote sleep and stop a runny nose. The cost of the two bottles is also an excellent value.

What you should consider: A small number of individuals do not like the taste of this medicine.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cold medicine for the money

Advil Multi Symptom Cold and Flu Medicine

Advil Multi Symptom Cold and Flu Medicine

What you need to know: One coated, easy-to-swallow tablet provides rapid relief of nearly all common cold symptoms.

What you’ll love: This cold medicine is formulated with ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen, which is important for those with certain medical conditions. It works by utilizing three powerful ingredients to combat almost all of the common symptoms of a cold. One tablet is a full dose, and the tablets are easy to swallow.

What you should consider: Some report that this brand does not have as strong of a desired effect as they had hoped.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Boiron Coldcalm 60 Tablets Homeopathic Medicine for Cold Relief

Boiron Coldcalm, 60 Tablets, Homeopathic Medicine for Cold Relief

What you need to know: Boiron Coldcalm Homeopathic Medicine for Cold Relief is a natural alternative to conventional cold medicines.

What you’ll love: This respected brand uses homeopathic ingredients that provide relief of common cold symptoms. The medicine is taken as a quick-dissolve tablet, and it has no known drug interactions. It is nondrowsy and uses only natural ingredients.

What you should consider: A small number of people say that this medicine does not work well for them.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb


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Valerie Jacobsen writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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