Medicines to Beat the Misery of Colds

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What medicines can you take to alleviate your cold symptoms?

Medicine is easy for me to talk about since I’ve been a pharmacist for 20 years. There are many products; in fact, the colorful assortment is almost dizzying, and if you pick the wrong product, you could worsen your symptoms. Even though you see thousands of brand name products (and generic equivalents), the combinations are formed from about 15 major ingredients. Here are some medicines to beat the misery of colds:

Use products containing acetaminophen, sold under brand names like Tylenol or Feverall. There are many dosage forms to accommodate children, such as drops, liquids, suppositories, chewable and meltaway. Another fever reducer is ibuprofen, also found in some pediatric products. Always call your doctor for fevers over 102 degrees, and never give children aspirin for their fever.

Body Aches.
Use formulas containing ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain and inflammation. You’ll find these ingredients in brand names such as Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen). Careful; they may cause upset stomach in sensitive people, so you should take these with food. Avoid if you have GI problems like reflux, heartburn or ulcers.

Stuffy Nose.
You can squirt a nasal spray, like Afrin or Dristin, into your nose for three days or less which provides immediate relief and unstuffs clogged sinuses. You can also take oral products that contain pseudoephedrine (brand Sudafed) to work from the inside out. These products can increase heart rate and blood pressure, so they are contraindicated in people who suffer with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Runny Nose.
Most people take antihistamines. The old standby is diphenhydramine, sold as Benadryl. Be warned, it makes you very sleepy. The newer antihistamine, loratadine (Claritin or Alavert) is able to dry up sinus drainage without the drowsiness. These products are contraindicated in people with an overactive thyroid, enlarged prostate or glaucoma.

Most people buy cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan or DM such as Robitussin DM. This is fine for a persistent dry cough. But you should ask your doctor whether or not she wants you to suppress your cough. She may prefer that you to loosen up chest congestion and spit up the phlegm, getting it up and out of you. If that’s the case, you want a formula that contains guaifenesin, not DM. For this reason, I often recommend taking either guaifenesin or DM, but not both of them together. Pick the cough medicine you need, based on your symptom, or you could make yourself more miserable.

Did You Know?
You can prevent colds with health food store potions that include chlorella, spirulina, quercetin, grapeseed, bilberry and other antioxidants.