Background: Although non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been widely used for the treatment of pain and fever associated with the common cold, there is no systematic review to assess the effects of NSAIDs in patients with the common cold.
Objectives: To determine the effects of NSAIDs versus placebo and other treatments on the signs and symptoms of the common cold. To determine any adverse effects of NSAIDs in patients treated with NSAIDs for the common cold.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2009, issue 1) which includes the Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) Group's Specialized Register; MEDLINE (January 1966 to March 2009); EMBASE (January 1980 to March 2009); CINAHL (January 1982 to March 2009); ProQuest Digital Dissertations (January 1938 to March 2009); KoreaMed (January 1958 to March 2009) and KMbase (January 1949 to March 2009).
Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) studying treatment of the common cold with NSAIDs in adults or children.
Data collection and analysis: Four review authors extracted data (SYK, YSM, YJC, YWH). We subdivided trials into placebo-controlled RCTs and NSAIDs versus NSAIDs RCTs. We extracted and summarized data on global efficacies: analgesic effects such as reduction of headache and myalgia; non-analgesic effects such as reduction of nasal symptoms, cough, sputum and sneezing; and side effects.
Main results: This review includes nine RCTs, describing 37 comparisons: six were NSAIDs versus placebo, and three were NSAIDs versus NSAIDs. A total of 1064 patients with the common cold were included. In a pooled analysis, NSAIDs did not significantly reduce the total symptom score, or duration of colds.However, for outcomes related to the analgesic effects of NSAIDs (headache, ear pain, and muscle and joint pain) NSAIDs produced significant benefits, and malaise showed a borderline benefit, although throat irritation was not improved. Chills showed mixed results. For respiratory symptoms, cough and nasal discharge scores were not improved, but the sneezing score significantly improved. We found no evidence of increased frequency of adverse effects in the NSAID treatment groups.
Authors' conclusions: The authors recommend NSAIDs for relieving discomfort or pain caused by the common cold. Further research is needed to investigate the effect of NSAIDs in relieving respiratory symptoms such as cough and nasal discharge.