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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

How to Choose Over-the-Counter Cold and Flu Meds

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5. What should I take for fever and aches?

A fever can be a good thing. It kick-starts your immune system and helps your body fight off an infection by torching bacteria and viruses.

Doctors no longer suggest you try to lower it, except for people who are very young or old, and those with certain medical conditions such as heart disease or lung disease. If you're uncomfortable, though, it's fine to take a fever-reducer medication.

Young people, including those in their early 20s, should avoid aspirin. Medicines with acetaminophen and ibuprofen are best. Each type has its own set of risks, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which is best for you.

Be careful not to overdose. These drugs are often mixed in with cough and cold and flu remedies. Read the labels, and don't take a separate pain remedy if your cough or cold medicine includes one. If you’re not sure what’s in it, talk to your pharmacist before you take it.

6. What's best for my sore throat?

Drink lots of fluids, and use a salt-water gargle for relief. To make it, mix a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of salt. Some medications you take by mouth like acetaminophen, medicated lozenges, and gargles can also temporarily soothe a sore throat.

Get your doctor's OK before you take anything, even over-the-counter drugs. Don't use lozenges or gargles for more than a few days. The drugs could mask signs of strep throat, a bacterial infection that should be treated with antibiotics.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on September 14, 2014
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