Over the Counter Cold and Flu Medications

With so many over the counter cold and flu medications available to treat your symptoms, it is hard to know which ones to choose. This list of medications can help you treat various cold and flu symptoms. Figure out which symptoms are bothering you and you can see what your options are for each one or learn how multi-symptom medications may help. If you want to avoid typical cold and flu medications, we have links to herbal and natural products as well.


Woman sneezing
Allergies can be difficult to deal with. Sean Justice/Getty Images

A few medications are available over the counter for runny noses, sneezing and itching. These are known as antihistamines. They will help dry up your runny nose and stop you from sneezing and itching so much.



Ibuprofen for pain and fever relief. Richar Goerg/E+/Getty Images

Several different medications are available over the counter for bringing down fevers and relieving minor aches and pains. They are sold under brand names such as Tylenol, Motrin and Aleve and also come in generic form. Be sure to find out which one is right for you and your family before taking pain relievers and fever reducers.



What type of congestion are you dealing with?. Eric Audras/ONOKY/Getty Images

Having a stuffed up head can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to headaches and sinus infections. A few options are available if you are looking for an over the counter medication to get rid of your congestion. They are known as decongestants.

In the US, pseudoephedrine (PSE) is now available only behind the pharmacy counter but still without a prescription. Several drug companies, including the makers of Sudafed, have replaced PSE with a medication called phenylephrine. It is available in the cold and flu aisle.



Cough Medications. Scott Olsen/Getty Images News

A cough is one of those annoying symptoms that is hard to treat. You never know if you need to do something about it or what could be causing it. You may want to evaluate your cough before taking cough medication. If you decide that an over-the-counter cough medication would be right for you, a choice still must be made between one that breaks up your chest congestion (expectorant) and one that stops your cough (suppressant). It is important to be sure you are taking the right over-the-counter cough medication.



Sick woman in bed
What should you do when you are sick?.

If you have more than one symptom you need to treat - which most people do when they get a cold or the flu - you may want to consider a medication that treats multiple symptoms. Many options are available, just make sure you are taking one that treats only the symptoms you have. Taking medication for symptoms you do not have is not only unnecessary, but it can also be dangerous.



Vitamin C
Vitamin C - what can it do for you?. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Many people prefer natural or herbal treatments when it comes to their health. These can be good options, but it is important to talk with your doctor about what herbs you are taking. They can interact with other medications you may be on or be dangerous for people with certain diseases. Because herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, they do not always list potential side effects or interactions with other drugs.

Learn more about which herbal and natural products may help with your cold and flu symptoms and which ones may not.


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