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Tips on the right OTC meds to treat various cold and flu symptoms

February 15, 2011 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News Source: PharmaSueAnn – 2.15.2011

37% of customers are never quite sure which cold medications to take for their symptoms. It’s a finding that doesn’t surprise the pharmacists. 

PharmaSueAnn says the most common complaints right now are “stuffy nose, headache, cough in the chest.” For the stuffy head and sinus pressure she recommends a decongestant. “The decongestant works on actually the blood vessels in your sinus passage” explains SueAnn, “there’s loads of blood vessels in there and it causes them to constrict which makes you feel less stuffy.” It also causes the mucus to drain.

On the opposite end, the runny nose and allergy-like symptoms SueAnn says to reach for an antihistamine. “The antihistamine would come in if you’re experiencing watery eyes like you would get with a cold or you’re sneezing a lot.”

An antihistamine can cause drowsiness, so it’s often found in nighttime cold relievers.

For a general pain reliever the advice is aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as well, so SueAnn says it will also help relieve sinus pressure.

If it’s a cough bring you to the pharmacy aisle says SueAnn, “I would need to know what kind of cough you’re speaking of. Are you speaking of a rattling chest cough where you have phlegm coming out or is it just a dry annoying cough.” For the rattling cough she says to look for guafenisen on the label or cough expectorant. It helps to break up chest mucus. For the dry cough grab a cough suppressant.

And when using a multi-symptom reliever, be careful when taking additional meds warns SueAnn, “you don’t want to double up on your Tylenol because it could cause liver damage.”

And finally, when using products that contain zinc meant to shorten the duration or reduce severity, SueAnn says you need to take it at the first signs of the cold, if it’s taken too late “they’re just throwing their money away.”

Keep in mind, if you’re already on something like a blood thinner or arthritis meds check with your pharmacist when grabbing an over the counter remedy. SueAnn says it’s not safe to take ibuprofen with those types of drugs. And if you can’t kick the fever with an over the counter, it’s likely a bacterial infection that may need an antibiotic

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