When You Just Want to Stop Sneezing

When You Just Want to Stop Sneezing

How to Choose the Best OTC Medication

There are a bewildering number of over-the-counter (OTC) medications in the cold/flu/allergy aisle. To narrow down your options, start with your condition, then focus on the symptom.

(The following is general information regarding OTC medication. You should always consult with your doctor with questions regarding whether an OTC medication is appropriate for you.)

If You Have A Cold

Congestion? Try a decongestant for quick, temporary relief of nasal and sinus congestion. (Not recommended for people with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, or hyperthyroidism.)

  • Oral (tablets, capsules, liquid) options containing pseudoephedrine are safe and effective.
  • Nasal sprays (oxymetazoline and phenylephrine*) work within minutes. Limit use to three days; if used longer, symptoms may return and be tougher to treat. (*No longer considered useful in pill form, but effective in a nasal spray.)

Wet cough? Look for an expectorant (guaifenesin), which may loosen up and thin the mucus in your airways, so that you can cough it up more easily.

If You Have The Flu

Fever/body aches/headache? Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can bring down a fever and provide relief for headaches and body aches. Aspirin is another option for people over 19 years old.

Can’t sleep? “Nighttime” products contain ingredients (diphenhydramine, doxylamine, dextromethorphan) that make you sleepy.

If You Have Seasonal Allergies

Sneezing, runny nose and itchy skin or eyes? Try an antihistamine to dry up sinuses and reduce itchiness.

  • Oral (tablets, capsules, liquid) options that are less likely to cause drowsiness include cetirizine, desloratadine, fexofenadine, levocetirizine, and loratadine.
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays (azelastine, cromolyn sodium) block mast cells, which cause allergy symptoms when they’re released.
  • Steroid nasal sprays (fluticasone, mometasone, triamcinolone, budesonide) calm the immune system’s response to allergens.

Dry cough? You’ll want a suppressant (dextromethorphan) which helps to block the cough reflex.

OTC Tips

  • Ask your doctor if an OTC product is safe for you if you have health conditions or take another medication.
  • Look at the label’s Drug Facts to see the active ingredient, the symptom it treats, and dosage.
  • Save money with generics; they have the same active ingredients as brand name products and are just as effective.
  • Avoid taking too much of an ingredient if you use more than one OTC product at the same time.
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