Picking the Right Cold Medication

Tough decisions are the last thing you want to face when a cold hits you full force. It’s very confusing because there are so many different products. People simply have to read labels. While you’re squinting at the cold medication label, pay close attention to the doses recommended for different age groups.

Follow these steps for making sense of over-the-counter cold medicine:

Know your symptoms. It’s important to identify your symptoms so you can choose the proper medications with the right ingredients to address each of them.

Be careful not to take two medications with the same ingredients. This is especially true for acetaminophen. This common fever reducer and pain reliever can be found in variety of cold medications, but taking too much of it increases the risk of liver damage.

Learn about Cold Medication by Symptom: Cough

  • Cough suppressants. Also called antitussives, these medications actually stop you from coughing.
  • Expectorants. This category of cold medication thins mucus, so rather than stopping your cough, your cough will sound wet or be more “productive.”

Cold Medication by Symptom: Fever, Sore Throat, and Aches and Pains

  • Acetaminophen. This is generally marketed as Tylenol and is a good option for headaches and other aches and pains.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This category of cold medication works by cutting down on inflammation in your body and includes aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen (Aleve).

Cold Medication by Symptom: Sneezing, Runny Nose, and Itchy, Watery Eyes

  • Antihistamines. If you’re suffering from sniffling, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and/or a runny nose, a product with an antihistamine is your best bet. These treat allergy symptoms as well as cold symptoms.

Cold Medication by Symptom: Congestion

  • Decongestants. These medications reduce the swelling of tissues in your nose, making breathing easier.

If you’re still having a hard time navigating the cold medication aisle, talk to the pharmacist. With a little information about ingredients, you may be able to get better symptom relief during cold season this year.


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