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How to Choosing the Right Cold and Flu Medicines

When you are sick with the flu or cold-like symptoms, you want to feel better as quickly as you can. There’s no cure, but plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are available that helps to relieve the cola and flue symptoms. Many options can be hard to choose from.

Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you are looking for relief from the cold and flue.

Read the label

You must read the labels before you buy medicine. All OTC medicines have a ‘Drug Facts’ label on the package. It is a good source of information. Make sure to look at the label before you take any medicine. On the label you’ll find:

  • The active ingredients in the medicine make it work.
  • The uses (indications) for the medicine. These are symptoms and conditions the medicine treats or relives. Make sure the section lists your symptoms.
  • Find any warnings before you take medicine. It includes who must not take medicine, when to ask your doctor before using it, and when to stop taking the medication.
  • You must know the directions for taking the medication. It is crucial to follow these for better results.

Choose the right medicine

You must choose the medicine that treats your symptoms. Cold and flue medications can help to treat more than one symptom at the same time. It can help to treat fever, stuffy nose, and cough. You can try to choose a medicine that only treats your symptoms. It will also help you to avoid any unwanted side effects like drowsiness. You can also get discounts on medications through drug discount cards.

Don’t double dose

Many OTC medicines contain many of the same active ingredients. Before taking more than one medicine, check the labels carefully. Make sure they don’t have the same active ingredients. You must be especially careful with pain relievers like acetaminophen. Cold and flue remedies often have pain relievers, so it’s easy to take too much by mistake.

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There are a handful of ingredients that all cold-and-flu-medicines use. But you must know that even generics have these ingredients as well. You can check out the active ingredients in-store brands to see how to stack up to the brand-name counterparts.

Ask your pharmacists about dosing instructions

You can carefully follow the instructions on the “Drug Facts” label for how much to take and how often you can take it. Do not take more than the maximum dosage allowed in a day. You can also use the dosing cup or syringe that comes with the medicine. Different devices like a household spoon could hold the wrong amount of medicine.

Ask the pharmacist if you want help to figure out how much to take of each medicine. Many medicines used to treat different symptoms have the same active ingredient. You can also check for the active ingredients in all medications. Ask your pharmacist about the pharmacy discount card.

Only treat your symptoms

Make sure you focus on the symptoms and how to treat them. All-in-one-over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are tempting, but you must take what you do not need. Overmedicating won’t make symptoms go away faster, and make you drowsy or have other side effects.

  • The medication worked for you before
  • The most crucial thing is to take something that works for you. It could be a bit different from what works for other people.

Look for the ingredients

There are a ton of cold and flu products that people buy thinking there is only one ingredient. However, it can also be a combination product. You can prefer taking the least amount of medication and the lowest dose. If you have a sore throat and a runny nose, you do not need to take a medication that controls a cough.

Don’t take more medication than necessary

People often take combination-ingredient flu and cold medications like Tylenol Cold Daytime or NyQuil. You’ve probably seen commercials for these types of products, so it is easy to recognize them as OTC.

However, these combination treatments often have more ingredients than you need to treat your symptoms the best. You can put yourself at greater risk for overdosing, drug interactions, and side effects. Overdosing is especially risky with products containing acetaminophen. The reason is that going even just a bit over the safe daily limit can damage your liver or even cause death.

Purge your medicine cabinet

You can check the expiration dates on any OTC medicine at your home. If you bought it last year, chances are that it needs to go. You need to dispose of it off and get a new one.

Medications for cold and flu

Many OTC cold/flu products out there contain a combination of these medications, but you can purchase the ingredients as individual products as well. Some ingredients may interact with other medications you might be taking. It can also cause undesirable side effects, or may not be recommended due to specific health or medical conditions. To avoid potential problems with multi-ingredient products, select individual medications based on the symptoms you are experiencing. Do not forget to check with your health care provider or pharmacist to ensure the OTC flu/cold medication you choose will not negatively impact any medical conditions you may have.

Here are the types of medicines that can help to treat flu and common cold symptoms:

  • Pain relievers ease headaches, body aches, and lower fever. Some examples include ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Nasal decongestants help clear a stuffy nose. The nasal decongestant phenylephrine is in Sudafed 12-hour and Sudafed PE.
  • Expectorants thin mucus so that you can cough it up. The only type of OTC expectorant is guaifenesin, found in Robitussin Chest Congestion and Mucinex.
  • Cough suppressants help to ease a cough. Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant in Vicks 44 Cough and cold, and Robitussin Cough.
  • Antihistamines stop a runny nose and reduce sneezing. Some include chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), loratadine (Claritin), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl).


When you try your best to treat flu or cold symptoms, the medication options can feel overwhelming. Remember, the things you worked on in the past and choose the ingredients you need. Avoid the interactions with other drugs that lead you to the best choice. You must connect with a health care provider to evaluate your symptoms. You can also get discounts on prescriptions through free Rx discount cards.

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