Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Common Questions About Cold and Flu Relief

Store shelves bulge with cold and flu remedies, all of which are made to fight symptoms or help you feel better faster. But how do you decide which one is right for you? Here are some questions to ask the pharmacist.

Should I take a decongestant or an antihistamine?

The medicine that’s best for you depends on your symptoms. If you have a stuffy nose or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can help. If you have drainage -- a runny nose, postnasal drip, or itchy watery eyes -- then an antihistamine may help.

Over-the-counter antihistamines may make you drowsy and can make mucus thicker, which can be a problem if you have asthma. Decongestants may make you jittery or keep you awake. Both types can interact with other drugs you take, and they may make some of those conditions worse. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about which one is best for you.

Is it safe to take a decongestant if I have high blood pressure?

Decongestants can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, along with your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are the most common types available. In general, if your blood pressure is under control with medications, then a decongestant shouldn't be a problem -- as long as you monitor your condition. But that’s not the case for all types of blood pressure drugs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you pick a product that works with what you’re taking.

How often should I use nasal spray if I have a cold or flu?

Nasal decongestant sprays work fast to open breathing passages. But if you use them for more than 3 days in a row, you may suffer a "rebound effect" and end up much more congested than you were at the start. It’s also hard to get off the medications, so avoid them or use them sparingly. Some doctors suggest a saline spray or rinse instead of one with medicine in it. Saline spray works more slowly, but it has no rebound effect.

Should I take cough medicine?

A cough helps clear your lungs of mucus and other gunk. If you have a cough that doesn’t go away, you’ll need to see your doctor. At the drug store, you'll find a lot of cough medicines with different mixes of decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics/antipyretics, cough suppressants, and expectorants. Ask your pharmacist which combination, if any, would be right for you.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
blowing nose
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear
Article
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Video
 
How To Calm Your Cough
Quiz
Sore Throat
Slideshow