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    Get Relief From the Aches and Pains of a Cold

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    When you feel like you're coming down with a cold, you don't need a crystal ball to figure out what's next. Sneezing and coughing, for sure. Maybe a headache, sore throat, or a runny nose. But for some folks, that's not all. Achy muscles can be a problem, too.

    Want some relief? You don't have to look much further than your neighborhood pharmacy.

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    Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines

    These are medications you can get without a prescription from a doctor. Some good choices for pain relief are acetaminophen or NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen.

    Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs can lower your fever and ease muscle aches. Some people find that one medicine works better for them than another.

    Many OTC cold medicines have either acetaminophen or ibuprofen in them.

    How Do OTC Pain Meds Give You Relief?

    NSAIDs work by cutting down how much your body makes of a hormone-like substance that causes pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen affects the areas of your brain that receive "pain messages."

    Are My Aches and Pains From a Cold or the Flu?

    Many symptoms of these two illnesses are similar. But there are some key differences:

    • A fever, headache, and other aches and pains are common with the flu but less so with colds.
    • People who have colds usually have a stuffy nose and sore throat. That's less common when you have the flu.
    • Flu symptoms often hit suddenly, which makes you weaker and weaker. A dry cough and fatigue can last 2 to 3 weeks.

    Some signs that your flu is getting worse include:

    Are Pain Relievers Safe?

    If you take them properly and follow the label instructions, OTC painkillers are safe for most people. But if you need pain relief for more than 10 days, talk to your doctor.

    Although they're usually safe, side effects can occur and may be quite serious for some people. For instance, if you use blood-thinning medicine or have active stomach or bowel ulcers, don't take aspirin or other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

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