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Cold & Flu Treatment

Cold & Flu Treatment

What medications are helpful for fevers, aches, and pains?

Fevers, aches and pains often respond well to pain reliever/fever reducer products. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Follow the directions on product labels carefully. If you have heart disease, kidney disease, stomach problems or other health concerns, check with your healthcare provider before taking an NSAID. (10)


What is pseudoephedrine and where is it located in the store?

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that can help if you have a stuffy nose from a cold, the flu, hay fever or other allergies. Your healthcare provider may also suggest you use it for other problems, such as sinus congestion and pressure. Pseudoephedrine may help ease symptoms, but it does not make your cold go away faster.

Ask your healthcare provider or Your pharmacist if it is safe for you to take pseudoephedrine. If your state allows the sale of pseudoephedrine, it will be found behind the pharmacy counter and sold by the pharmacist. You may need to show an lD to make the purchase. (11)


Do cough and cold medications often contain the same ingredients?

Yes. Many cough and cold medications contain the same ingredients, so be careful when using more than one product-you

don’t want to overdose. Also, don’t take a medication for symptoms you don’t have. If the box says “Cold and Cough” and you only have a cough, look for something that treats only cough symptoms. If you have any questions about which cold medication is right for you, ask your healthcare provider or Your pharmacist to help you choose. (12)


What should I look for when I buy a cold medication?

Cold medications have ingredients that help treat certain symptoms. Get to know the terms that may appear on the box. Then you can match your symptoms to what is listed. On the next page are some common types of cold medications with the ingredients they usually contain:

  • Nasal decongestants. Common ingredients are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. These help to unclog a stuffy nose.
  • Cough suppressants. Common ingredient is dextromethorphan or DM. This helps to quiet a cough.
  • Cough expectorants. Common ingredient is guaifenesin. This loosens mucus so you can cough it up.
  • Common ingredients are loratadine, chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine. These help to stop runny noses and sneezing.
  • Pain relievers/fever reducers. Common ingredients are acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These help to ease fever, headaches and minor aches and pains. There are many different pain medications, and each one has benefits and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medications than others. (13,14)


When shopping for over the counter cold and flu medications, know what to look for: (15)



What kind of medication should I look for?

What ingredients should be in the medication I use?

All-over aches/pains


aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen

Stuffy nose/congestion


pseudoephedrine, phenyiephrine, oxymetazoline, naphazoline

Cough that brings up mucus



Dry cough



Runny nose


fexofenadine, cetirizine, brompheniramine, diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, clemastine, loratadine, pheniramine



aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen



aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen

Itchy nose/eyes/throat


diphenhydramine, ohlorpheniramine, clemastine, brompheniramine, pheniramine



diphenhydramine, ohlorpheniramine, clemastine, brompheniramine, pheniramine

Sore throat

anesthetic, analgestic

benzocaine, benzyl alcohol, aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen


Is it safe to take cold or flu products with other over the counter or prescription medications?

It depends on what medications you are taking. If you take more than one medication with the same active ingredient to help your cold or flu symptoms, you might end up taking more than the suggested dose. That can cause serious health problems, so read all labels carefully.

If you are taking OTC or prescription medication(s), ask your Your pharmacist or Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioner to suggest a cold or flu product that is safe to take with your other medication(s). (16)


What is the difference between daytime and nighttime cold medications?

Daytime and nighttime cold medications are not the same. Nighttime products contain an antihistamine that can cause you to become drowsy. Daytime products do notcontain this type of ingredient. (17) However, a daytime product may still make you drowsy if it contains a cough suppressant, such as dextromethorphan (the “DM” ingredient in many cough/cold products). Make sure you know how a medicationwill affect you before you drive or operate machines. (18)


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