NSAIDs help some cold symptoms, not others

NEW YORK Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:29pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - If you're suffering from a cold, Motrin, Aleve and similar drugs can help you feel better, the authors of the first review of the medical literature on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for the common cold have concluded.

But NSAIDs probably won't clear up your stuffy nose or quell your cough, Dr. Soo Young Kim of Hallym University Medical College in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues found.

While many people use NSAIDs to cope with cold-related pain and fever, it's not clear whether these medications actually help, the researchers note in their report in The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent organization that evaluates medical research.

To investigate, they evaluated nine randomized controlled trials that compared NSAIDs to placebo, or one NSAID to another, in people with the common cold.

NSAIDs didn't reduce overall cold symptoms, the researchers found, nor did they shorten the length of time people had colds. The medications did relieve ear pain, headaches, and muscle and joint pain, but didn't help sore throats. NSAIDs had a "borderline" effect on cold-related malaise. Some studies found NSAIDs helped reduce chills, while others found no benefit.

Results were mixed on whether NSAIDs relieved respiratory cold symptoms such as cough and nasal discharge, although taking them did seem to reduce sneezing. There were no significant adverse effects seen with NSAIDs.

Guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians recommend patients take naproxen for cough, Kim and colleagues note, but the current findings show "there is no clear evidence that NSAIDs are effective for coughs caused by a cold, or should be recommended in order to ease cough caused by a cold."

They conclude: "NSAIDS are recommended for relieving pain or irritation caused by a cold, but the notion that NSAIDs are effective in relieving respiratory symptoms such as cough and nasal discharge needs more solid evidence."

SOURCE: The Cochrane Library 2009.

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