White Paper – Cold and Flu Products

Combination Cold & Flu Products

There are MANY combination cold and flu products available over the counter at your local pharmacy. They vary based on the ingredients included in the product. Some contain more ingredients, some contain less ingredients. Some come in non-drowsy formulations for daytime but also have nighttime formulations. Some have cough suppressants in them, others do not. The options can be overwhelming.

Single Product Alternatives

Single product alternatives provide a great way to customize your cold & flu treatment for your symptoms. They only contain one medication and are good for targeting specific symptoms. Many pharmacists recommend these over combination products.

Runny nose? Fever? Cough?

Cold and flu season generally runs from October to May. During this time you may be exposed to many cold and flu viruses.

The best first line of prevention against the cold & flu is good hand hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands frequently- especially after you sneeze, cough, or come in contact with a person who is ill. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for the entire duration of singing the “ABCs”.

But what if you end up getting sick? What products are available to help you feel better?

What to choose?
  • It is important to identify exactly which symptoms you have and base your treatment on them.
  • Extra medications that treat symptoms you do not have may be contained in combination products. Any medication can put you at risk for side effects, so it is important to only use what you need. This is where single product over-the-counter medications may be beneficial.
  • Single product treatments also can help cut down on cost as combination products tend to be pricey.
Recommended Treatments

Suggested single product medications for associated symptoms***:

  • Headache → Ibuprofen
  • Fever → Acetaminophen
  • Nasal congestion → Pseudoephedrine
  • Mucus in throat or lungs → Guaifenesin
  • Cough → Cough drops or Dextromethorphan
  • Runny nose → Cetirizine

***Most importantly: Ask your pharmacist what may be right for you and your health. Some medications listed above may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions.

Cold & Flu Combination Products

There are many options available over the counter to help treat cold and flu symptoms. Sometimes the product selection can be overwhelming. There are several factors to consider when choosing a medication.

  • Combination products contain multiple medications in one
  • Most of the combination ingredients can be purchased alone as well as in the combination
  • It is important to choose a product that only contains medications you need to treat your specific symptoms
  • Many pharmacists recommend choosing single products over combination products to ensure you don’t take extra unneeded medications which have the potential to cause extra side effects
Selected Combination Products and Symptoms the Ingredients Treat:
  • Alkaseltzer Plus Cold for (Pain or fever, Runny nose, Nasal Congestion)
  • Alkaseltzer Plus Cold & Cough for (Pain or fever, Runny nose, Nasal Congestion, Cough)
  • DayQuil Severe Cold & Flu for (Pain or fever, Nasal Congestion, Cough, Mucus in throat)
  • NyQuil Cold & Flu for (Pain or fever, Runny nose, Cough, Mucus in throat)
  • Robitussin Cough & Chest Congestion for (Cough, Mucus in throat)
  • Theraflu Daytime Severe Cold & Cough for (Pain or fever, Nasal Congestion, Cough)
  • Theraflu Nighttime Severe Cold & Cough for (Pain or fever, Runny nose, Nasal Congestion)
  • Tylenol Cold & Head Congestion Severe for (Pain or fever, Nasal Congestion, Cough)
Single Product Alternatives:
  • Medication: Acetaminophen/Symptom: Pain or fever
  • Medication: Ibuprofen/Symptom: Pain or fever
  • Medication: Pseudoephedrine/Symptom: Nasal congestion
  • Medication: Guaifenesin/Symptom: Mucus in throat or lungs
  • Medication: Cough drops or dextromethorphan/Symptom: Cough
  • Medication: Cetirizine/Symptom: Runny nose

To summarize, choose your cold & flu products carefully! Ask your pharmacist if you have questions or need help choosing which is right for you!