On today’s episode of Simple Health Radio, Dr. Emran will discuss an over-the-counter cough and cold medication and clarify some of the ingredients in them.
Every day in the emergency room, Dr. Emran sees people that have “common cold” symptoms like fever, cough, congestion, headaches, runny nose and sneezing. Most people head over to their local pharmacy and buy something over the counter and it’s either a hit or miss.
When Dr. Emran asks patients what they bought, they usually tell him that the medicine claimed to have benefits to reduce or relieve all the symptoms together, but they found themselves feeling worse later.
A large number of brand-name medications actually come from the same company and are related to each other. Dr. Emran explains that popular medicines like Dayquil, Nyquil, Mucinex, and Robitussin tend to be produced by the same company and labeled similarly too. Sometimes you get variations of the same medicine as well, line Mucinex ‘DM’ or Alka Seltzer ‘Sinus Plus’.
People are often confused because they think the additional wording means they are getting something better or something that will work harder than the original. However, that is usually not correct. Dr. Emran advises buyers to look at the back of the package, not the front, especially with the active ingredient, which is usually listed first in the ingredients.
Let’s take a look at Mucinex,
which is for congestion. Some people find that Mucinex causes dry mouth, but users can compensate by drinking more water. If there is no infection, users of Mucinex should feel better within a couple days.
Mucinex DM has another ingredient - the DM stands for Dextromethorphan, which is a safe cough suppressant that calms a cough until the body can clear the virus.
Another popular medicine is Sudafed, which works similarly to Mucinex. It gets rid of congestion in the mucus. However, some people experience increased heart race, elevated blood pressures or they feel dizzy/shaky at times. If they take it at night, they can’t go to sleep because it makes them more alert and anxious..
Allergy medicine like Claritin, Zyrtec and Loratadine, are over-the-counter drugs available for adults and children. When accompanied by a ‘D’ at the end, it indicates that the medication is combined with Sudafed.
Drowsy medications include Benadryl, an allergy medicine commonly used by kids and adults. One of the main ingredients, diphenhydramine, are in the sleep-aids like Z-Quil or NyQuil. This can be confusing when a sleep-aid medicine can be used in allergy medicine.
Saline nasal sprays are just salt and water. It has no side effects and can be used by both babies and adults.
Steroid nasal sprays include Flonase and Rhinocort. These medicines have low doses of steroids and work well if used daily for an extended period of time. Some people find that when they stop taking these, their symptoms return.
Nasal stimulants are the strongest nasal sprays that should be used only for a couple of days. These include Afrin or Neo-Synephrine. They are extremely effective, but cause the veins in the nose to become small, cause nose bleeds, and can be highly addictive if used every day.
Many of these combination medications also have Tylenol or ibuprofen meaning you should not buy those drugs separately as a supplement. This can cause an overdose.
Some of these medicines can increase blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate. Anyone with liver problems or with weak immune systems should never use these over-the-counter medicines.
Always talk to your pharmacist before buying over the counter medications and keep your doctor updated on any changes or symptoms.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Dr. Emran and Simple Health Radio do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, consults, or any other information that may be mentioned on this website or radio podcast.
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