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Medicating a Cold or Flu

Cold and flu season sends us running for the drug store seeking miracle cures.  Unfortunately, cold and flu are caused by viruses and the best treatments available only make the symptoms a little less intense. 

Choosing the best medication to address your symptoms can be very confusing because there are a lot of products crowding the pharmacy shelves.  Most of the products available without a prescription are simply different combinations of a few common medicines.  If you do not read the labels carefully and fully understand what you are taking, it is very easy to overdose or take medications that you do not really need. 

Medicines like Tylenol, which most people consider to be harmless, can cause serious problems if the dosage is too high and it is taken for an extended period of time.  Additionally, people with conditions like heart disease have to be very careful because certain cold and flu medications can cause negative side effects.

The easiest way to know what exactly what you are taking is to purchase products with a single active ingredient and then take those products as directed on the individual labels. 

If you ever have questions, please ask the pharmacist.  They are trained to help!

Quick Reference for Common Over-the-Counter Cold and Flu Medication Ingredients:

Cough Suppressant Expectorant Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever Nasal Decongestant Antihistamine
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM) Guaifenesin (Robitussin Expectorant) Acetaminophen (Tylenol)Ibuprofen (Advil) Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE) Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)Brompheniramine (Bromax)

Diphenydramine (Benedryl)Loratadine (Claritin)

Fexofenadine (Allegra)

Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Patrick Gregory is a pharmacist who provides in-office consultation to WakeMed Physician Practices.