Cough, Cold & Flu

Cough

Did you know there are different types of coughs? To best identify and treat your cough, here’s what you need to know.

A chesty or congested cough is loose and accompanied by a buildup of mucus or phlegm in the lungs. Cough expectorants help loosen the mucus so that when you do cough, it can be more productive. There are also coughs where no mucus or phlegm is present. Both types of coughs can be treated with an antitussive, or cough suppressant, to reduce the amount of coughing.

Cough Treatments

While most of the time a cough doesn’t require treatment, OTC cough medicines can be useful if your cough is keeping you awake at night or interfering with your daily activities. And while there are many brands of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines, there are still only two basic types – expectorants and suppressants.

Cough Expectorants

Certain conditions, such as the common cold, can cause a buildup of mucus, leading to chest congestion and a chesty or congested cough. Cough expectorants (i.e., medicines that help relieve chest congestion caused by mucus) help loosen congestion so that when you do cough it is more productive, which means you clear the mucus from your lungs.

OTC cough expectorants:
  • Guaifenesin
    Bronkaid®, Little Remedies®, Mucinex®, Robitussin®, Triaminic®

Cough Suppressants

Many of us are exposed to a variety of pollutants in the air, such as dust, exhaust fumes, and smoke, on a daily basis. When you develop a dry cough, it is your body’s way of clearing pollutants and other irritants from your airways. Cough suppressants, also known as antitussives, are medicines that are used to temporarily control or quiet a cough due to a cold, inhaled irritants, or minor throat and bronchial irritation.

OTC cough suppressants:
  • Dextromethorphan
    Delsym®, Dimetapp®, Mucinex®, Robitussin®, Sucrets®, Vicks®
  • Menthol
    Buckley’s®, Fisherman’s Friend®, Sucrets®, Vicks®
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Safe use tips for cough medicines

Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.

Do not take more than the maximum number of doses recommended on the product’s label in a 24-hour period.

A lingering cough may be a sign of a serious condition. If your cough lasts more than one week or is accompanied by fever, rash, or a persistent headache, you should contact a healthcare provider.

If you have a persistent cough due to smoking, asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema, contact a healthcare provider before taking a cough expectorant medicine.

Talk to a healthcare provider before using an oral or topical cough suppressant if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not give a cough expectorant or suppressant medicine to a child under the age of 4.

Talk to a healthcare provider before using a topical cough suppressant ointment on a child under the age of 2.

Before giving a cough lozenge to a child under the age of 6, make sure the child is able to safely dissolve a lozenge in their mouth without choking. Read the Drug Facts label carefully for appropriate use in children and contact a healthcare provider as directed.

Cold & Flu

When you have a common cold or the flu, you may experience several symptoms at the same time—nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, and chest congestion. So how do you pick an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to treat your symptoms? It’s important to only use medicines that treat the symptoms you have.

Cold & Flu Treatments

Multi-symptom cold medicines, like all OTC medicines, contain certain active ingredients that make them work in the human body. Because multi-symptom cold medicines treat more than one symptom, they contain more than one active ingredient. Each active ingredient treats a different symptom caused by the common cold and/or flu.

Pain and Fever

Some multi-symptom cold medicines may contain an active ingredient for reducing pain or fever. There are two basic types of pain relievers and fever reducers: products containing acetaminophen and a group of products known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

OTC pain relievers and fever reducers:

Runny Nose and Sneezing

Some multi-symptom cold medicines contain antihistamine active ingredients to help relieve runny nose and sneezing. These may be the same active ingredients as the ones used in allergy medicines.

OTC antihistamines:
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Safe use tips for cold and flu medicines

Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the medicine.

You should choose a multi-symptom cold medicine that matches only the symptoms you have. (See the “Uses” section of the Drug Facts label.)

For liquid medicines, use the measuring device that comes with the product and do not take more than the recommended dose in a 24-hour period.

If you have a bad sore throat, or if it lasts more than two days or is accompanied by fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting, immediately contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Certain multi-symptom cold medicines may interact with other drugs. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are on a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a prescription drug for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease before taking a multi-symptom medicine.

Talk to a healthcare provider before taking a multi-symptom cold medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not give any oral multi-symptom cold medicine to a child under the age of 4.

Do not give a multi-symptom cold medicine or any OTC medicine that is only intended for an adult to a child.

Never use any multi-symptom cold medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.