Every cold and flu season, I get calls from my sisters and parents asking me for advice on which medicines to take. In my former life prior to children, I was a nurse for seven years so I am their easiest resource when it comes to common over-the-counter medicines. Standing in the cold medicine section at a pharmacy can be very confusing when not feeling the best. There are multiple different brands claiming to alleviate various symptoms, and there are some important things to remember when picking out cold medicines.
Cold medicines often contain multiple different medications: It is important to read the ingredients on the back of the package when picking out cold medicine. Many of the medications contain a drug called acetaminophen to relieve aches and pains. Acetaminophen is commonly known as Tylenol. It is important to not take Tylenol by itself in addition to the cold medicine that lists acetaminophen as an ingredient. Tylenol is processed by the liver and too much Tylenol can harm the liver.
Guaifenesin is often found in many cold medicines and cough syrups. It helps with cough and loosening congestion in the chest. It may be tempting to take a pill for the cold and also take a cough syrup, but if both contain the same drugs, an over dosage could occur. Ingredients can be easily found on the back of the package.
Confused? Pharmacists are a great resource and can help navigate the cold medication section.
My personal favorite over the counter medicines for colds and congestion:
(As always, it is wise to discuss medications with your physician prior to taking them especially if you have other medical conditions that could be affected.)
Mucinex Decongestant: Personally, the ingredients in Mucinex D are about the only over the counter medication that will help decongest my sinus cavity and my chest to prevent a sinus or respiratory infection. While it is technically an over the counter medication, it must be requested from a pharmacist and an identification check will be made. They make a 24 and a 12 hour dose. The 24 hour dose is basically both 12 hour doses in one. I personally prefer the 12 hour dose as the 24 hour dose is too strong for me in one dose.
Tylenol and Advil: Also known as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These are commonly known, but they are both great to help relieve aches, pains, chills and fevers.
Nasal sprays: Nasal decongestants like Zicam and Afrin can offer immediate relief of congestion. It can be used along with an oral decongestant because they act differently. The downside is that they can only be used for three days or the nasal passages will become dependent on the medication to remain decongested.
Do not forget the natural remedies that can be coupled with the pharmaceuticals that can be very beneficial, and if in doubt, speak to a pharmacist or an physician about symptoms.
Writer Bio: Summer Bolte
I spend most of my time and days with my three kids, husband and dog. My kids frequently play near me as I garden, cook, DIY and volunteer. My most unusual paying job has to be feeding fruit flies in a research lab, and my most fulfilling job was being an oncology nurse for seven years.