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Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines

The common cold, flu, and allergies are different health conditions, but they also share a lot of the same symptoms. These symptoms can include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, and chest congestion.

It is important to remember that multi-symptom cold medicines contain more than one active ingredient to treat more than one symptom. Click below for more information on multi-symptom cold medicines that also treat:

What Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines Are For

The common cold is often associated with several symptoms occurring at the same time. Multi-symptom cold medicines, also known as cough and cold combination products, are medicines that are used to treat multiple symptoms that can accompany a cold or flu.

How Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines Work

Multi-symptom cold medicines, like all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, contain certain active ingredients that make the medicines work in the human body. Because multi-symptom cold medicines treat more than one symptom, they contain more than one active ingredient. Each active ingredient treats a different symptom caused by the common cold. A multi-symptom cold medicine’s active ingredients, including how much of a substance is in each dose, are listed first on the Drug Facts label.

A multi-symptom cold medicine’s active ingredients are available in many oral medicines such as liquid, pills, soft chewables, dissolvable strips, and dissolvable powders. These medicines are taken by mouth and absorbed through the blood stream.

To learn more about giving cold medicines to children, watch this video recorded by Dr. Ernest Leva:

*Not all products sold under a brand contain the same ingredients. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products.

Tips for the Safe Use of Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines

  • Always read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the medicine.
  • You should choose a multi-symptom cold medicine which matches only the symptoms you have (see under the section “Uses” in the OTC Drug Facts label).
  • For liquid medicines, use the measuring device that that comes with the medicine and do not take more than the recommended dose in a 24-hour period.
  • Certain multi-symptom cold medicines may interact with other drugs. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional if you are on a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a prescription drug for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease before taking a multi-symptom medicine.
  • If you have a bad sore throat, or if it lasts more than two days or is accompanied by fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting, contact your doctor immediately.
  • A lingering cough may be a sign of a serious condition. If your cough lasts more than one week or if you get a fever, rash, or a persistent headache while on the medicine, you should contact a doctor or another healthcare professional.
  • Contact a doctor if your fever gets worse or lasts for more than three days.
  • Some multi-symptom cold medicines may cause drowsiness or make you sleepy. Be sure to read the warnings on the Drug Facts label and do not use alcoholic drinks which may make the drowsiness worse.
  • Talk to a healthcare professional before taking a multi-symptom cold medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tips for Parents

All of the tips for the safe use of OTC multi-symptom cold medicines in this section also apply to children. But like most OTC medicines, there are some additional considerations when it comes to treating kids.

  • Do not give any oral multi-symptom cold medicine to a child under the age of four.
  • Do not give a multi-symptom cold medicine or any OTC medicine that is only intended for an adult to a child.
  • Never use any multi-symptom cold medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.

Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

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