Aches and Fever
There are two kinds of medicines made to treat minor aches and pains from a cold:
Acetaminophen relieves headaches. It might also help open a stuffed nose. It’s in many cough and cold products as well as in other medicines. Read all the labels and be sure to follow the dosing instructions carefully so you don’t accidentally take too much.
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin are good for aches and pains. If you take a blood-thinning drug, check with your doctor before you take aspirin. And don't give aspirin to kids or teens. It can raise their risk for a rare but serious disease called Reye syndrome.
Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin can also ease the pain of a sore throat. Or you can suck on a lozenge or use a throat spray that contains a pain reliever such as benzocaine.
Multi-Symptom Cold Relievers
Some over-the-counter cold remedies combine medicines to help with a stuffed nose, cough, body aches, and other symptoms all at once. Before you buy a multi-symptom cold reliever, check that you have every symptom listed on the box. Otherwise, you might treat a symptom you don't have with medicine you don't need.
Do You Need More Advice?
Most people can buy OTC cold relievers on their own. But if you’re not sure what you need, ask your doctor or pharmacist for some guidance. It’s also a good idea to check with them if you have a medical condition such as glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, or an irregular heart rhythm that prevents you from being able to take decongestants.
Tell your pharmacist about any prescription medicines you take. Some cold medicines can interact with prescription drugs.
Read the Label
Whenever you buy an OTC cold medicine, read the label carefully. Look at these things:
- Ingredients: Check to see if it has medicines that are already in other drugs you take. For example, if you take a multi-symptom cold remedy and a headache medicine that both contain acetaminophen, you could be taking more than you should. That could damage your liver. You should also check the other ingredients, especially if you are allergic to colors or flavorings.
- Uses: Learn what symptoms the medicine targets. Only take medicine that treats the symptoms you have.
- Instructions: Find out how much of the medicine to take and how often you need to take it. Don't take more than the package recommends.
- Warnings: See what side effects might happen and who should not use the product.