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’tis The Season For Colds

  Trying to choose the best cold medicine from as many as 100 brightly colored bottles and boxes on the supermarket shelf can be difficult.

  However, carefully reading labels and selecting medications to address specific symptoms can help eliminate some of the guesswork when selecting a cold remedy, says Mary Lea Harper, Pharm.D., associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, and director of the Drug Information Center.

  “Choosing a single cold medicine to treat a single symptom, such as congestion, is best when possible,” Harper says. “However, combination products, such as those that contain both a decongestant and an antihistamine, also are helpful in reducing multiple symptoms.”

  The key to purchasing the best product is to identify symptoms and then find the best match of ingredients. 

  “Consumers must remember there is no cure for colds or flu, only products to treat symptoms for comfort,” Harper says.

  Consumers also should remember that a productive cough, one that helps break up mucus, is a positive symptom; if it can be tolerated, medication to stop it shouldn’t be taken, Harper says. However, an antitussive will provide relief for a dry or unproductive cough. 

  Harper also warns against taking many different medications or combinations of drugs without consulting a pharmacist or physician. 

  “One of the biggest dangers is taking more than one medication that may contain acetaminophen (Tylenol), therefore doubling the recommended dose,” Harper says. “It is always good advice to ask your pharmacist for help in choosing over-the-counter products, as well as inform the pharmacist of the prescription medications you also are taking to guard against drug interactions.”

  Other important tips to remember include carefully following directions with any medication, not exceeding the proper dosage, and remembering there is little difference between generic brands and name brands except for the cost. 

  Although most people will have some relief from symptoms when using over-the-counter products, children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness should consult a physician if symptoms don’t improve or they worsen after several days.

A few guidelines to remember when choosing a cold remedy:

· A decongestant helps reduce congestion.

· An expectorant promotes coughing to bring up mucus.

· An antihistamine helps alleviate a runny nose and watery eyes.

· An analgesic helps reduce pain and fever.

· An antipyretic relieves or reduces fever.

· An antitussive relieves or prevents coughing.

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