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Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Here’s How to Navigate the Drug Store Medicine Aisle

Posted By: Advancing Care

Medically reviewed by Maria Capparelli, MD

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be a convenient solution for managing colds or minor respiratory illnesses, but choosing the right ones among a sea of options can be confusing.

Here are nine practical tips to help you make informed choices the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles.

Pharmacy Confusion

  1. Identify your symptoms

Before hitting the pharmacy, pinpoint your respiratory symptoms — whether it's a cough, congestion or a combination.

  1. Active ingredients matter

Examine OTC medication labels for decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants and expectorants. Select a product that specifically addresses your symptoms without unnecessary additives.

  1. Cough suppressants or expectorants?

Choose wisely between cough suppressants (for dry, disruptive coughs) and expectorants (for phlegmy, productive coughs). In some cases, using the wrong cough medicine might worsen your condition.

For instance, suppressing a productive cough may hinder the body's natural mechanism to expel mucus, potentially leading to further respiratory issues.

  1. Beware of overmedication

To prevent overmedication, avoid doubling up on medications with similar ingredients.  Read labels carefully to steer clear of unintended consequences.

  1. Health conditions consideration

If you have pre-existing health conditions, be cautious with OTC choices. For example, if you have hypertension, decongestants and medications with a high sodium content may cause blood pressure spikes.

  1. Allergies and sensitivities

Check for allergens or sensitivities in OTC meds, such as dyes or gluten. Opt for formulations that align with your dietary restrictions.

  1. Age-appropriate formulations

Pediatric and adult formulations differ. Pick the right product for your age group to make sure it’s safe and effective.

  1. Mind the duration

Be aware of the frequency and duration of the recommended usage. Prolonged use may lead to tolerance or dependence.

  1. Consult your pharmacist

When in doubt, consult your pharmacist. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your symptoms, medical history and current medications.

By understanding your symptoms, checking active ingredients, being mindful of usage duration and avoiding overmedication, you can confidently make choices that align with your health needs and properly ease your symptoms. For more personalized guidance, talk to your doctor or consult a WMCHealth Physicians or Bon Secours Medical Group primary care specialist.