Clearing the Confusion on Cold and Cough Products

2018 Season of Colds and Cough

Bob, who has Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, phoned me bright and early Monday morning stating he had a cold and cough and was unsure of what product to take. It is so common to experience the sheer confusion like Bob when choosing a product to treat cold and cough. What is one to do?

Identify your Specific Symptoms

Before rushing off to the pharmacy to purchase a non-prescription medication to treat your cold or cough, slow down and identify your symptoms. Do you a:

Is it nonproductive or productive?
Nonproductive: dry, hacking
Productive: expel secretions
What color is the secretion?

Sore throat
Nasal congestion
Fever (oral temperature greater than 99.7°F)

Back to Bob, he stated that he had a sore throat, stuffy nose and dry cough for the last few days. His coughing spells had made it difficult for him to sleep through the night not to mention his co-workers’ frustration of listening to his hacking cough at the office all day – of course Bob is frustrated!

Consult with Pharmacist

Are you aware that pharmacists are medication experts and the most accessible healthcare professionals? Don’t’ be shy about discussing with the pharmacist in your local pharmacy for recommendation for non-prescription products to treat your cold or cough? Make sure to tell them your specific symptoms related to your cold or cough. Next, share with them all prescription and non-prescription (vitamins, supplements and other over the counter medications) medicines that you are currently taking as well as any drug allergies.

Stay AwayFrom

The old notion of taking large doses of vitamin C or drinking orange juice to prevent or treat colds simply is not true. Sore throat lozenges or liquid cold non-prescription medicines will treat your symptoms plus leave you with high blood sugar – go with only sugar free syrups and sore throat lozenges. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, avoid decongestants (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline) (as they will raise your blood pressure).

General Tips

– Read Drug Facts Label carefully
o Look for the primary ingredients
• For dry cough: dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine
• For acute, ineffective productive cough: guaifenesin
• For nasal congestion: nasal saline rinse
• For sore throat: lozenges (benzocaine, dyclonine, menthol)
• For fever: acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
– Less is better:
o Pick product with only the primary ingredients needed to treat your symptoms
o Fewer the primary ingredients the better
– Hand washing is vital. While washing hands with soap and water is ideal, cleaning hands with hand sanitizer is a great alternative.
– Don’t over do the acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
o Did you know that many nonprescription combination products used in treatment of colds already has acetaminophen included in it?
o If taking a combination product, usually no need to take any acetaminophen
o Stay under 4 grams (4000 milligrams (mg)) per day

Back to Bob

My recommendation for Bob was to purchase a saline nasal rinse for his stuffy nose, sugar-free sore throat lozenges and dextromethorphan for his dry cough. He phoned a few days later stating that he was beginning to feel better and getting a good night’s sleep without waking to cough spells – and he said his co-workers are happier as well!

Please share your thoughts and comments.

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