Common Cold Meds Demystified Just in Time For Cold and Flu Season

Decongestant? Expectorant? Suppressant? How to know what to take.

With scores of OTC medications available for cold and flu symptoms, it’s easy to get confused. We asked Jacqueline Bardini, JD, PharmD, director of pharmaceutical management at WESTMED, to help us untangle the web of common ingredients in cold-and-flu meds. Even if you already have a go-to remedy, you’ll want to check out our findings below. 

Sympton: Runny Nose

Best Bet: Doxylamine

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Popular Brands: Vicks NyQuil Cold and Flu Relief, Tylenol Cold and Cough Nighttime, Alka Seltzer Plus Night 

Possible Side Effects: Drowsiness; dry mouth, throat, eyes, and nasal passages; nervousness or excitement; nausea; increased chest congestion; constipation; and urinary retention

 

Sympton: Sinus Congestion

Best Bet: Pseudoephedrine

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Popular Brands: Sudafed Advil Cold &  Sinus

Possible Side Effects: Can increase heart rate and blood pressure; may cause nervousness, dizziness or sleeplessness. Avoid or ask your doctor if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, difficulty urinating, or thyroid or heart disease.

 

Sympton: Chest Congestion

Best Bet: Guaifenesin

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Popular Brands: Robitussin, Mucinex

Possible Side Effects: Headache, nausea, vomiting

 

Sympton: Chronic Cough

Best Bet: Dextromethorphan

Popular Brands: Robitussin DM, Mucinex DM, Coricidan HBP Nighttime Multi-Symptom Cold

Possible Side Effects: Dizziness, drowsiness, nervousness, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain

 

Sympton: Stuffy Nose

Best Bet: Phenylephrine

Popular Brands: Sudafed PE, PediaCare, Children’s FeverReducer Plus Multi-Symptom Cold

Possible Side Effects: Drowsiness; dry mouth, throat, eyes, and nasal passages; nervousness or excitement; nausea; increased chest congestion; constipation; and urinary retention

 


PREVENTION: Cold-Weather Supplements
Vitamins and minerals to get you through winter’s fury


RELATED: The Very Best Way to Wash Your Hands 


The best thing about the dead of winter is that spring is on the horizon. But until it arrives, there are extra steps you can take to help stay healthy.

Yes, taking vitamin C really is a good idea. “Wintertime means cold-and-flu season, so it’s important to keep your immune system functioning at its best,” says Harrison-based nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RDN, who recommends taking 500mg daily. And a multivitamin containing vitamins A through E is “the best insurance policy to make sure our bodies get what they need during the winter,” she adds. Omega-3 supplements are usually helpful, too, particularly if you have dry, flaky skin.  — Patty Monaghan

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