Over-the-counter agents used to treat upper respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion are a booming business. However, a recent ruling by the FDA advisory committee declared that oral phenylephrine, a commonly found ingredient in some over-the-counter products, does not work as a decongestant. This decision has left many consumers confused about which products to choose.
Experts suggest several tips for finding the right solution for sinus and cold symptoms:
1. Read the label carefully: Many people don’t know what medications they are buying. Different products contain different medications that target specific symptoms. For example, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or dextromethorphan can be used to treat muscle and body aches or a cough.
2. Consider buying single-ingredient medications: Some products have multiple medications combined, but you may not need all of them. Buying the one indicated for your specific symptom can be more effective.
3. Talk to a healthcare provider: Pseudoephedrine, available behind the pharmacy counter, and nasal sprays containing phenylephrine are effective decongestants. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine may also help with nasal inflammation and sleep, but they should not be overused.
4. Try non-medication remedies: Rest, relaxation, and hydration are essential when combating colds. Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding technology before bed and ensuring a cool and dark sleeping environment, can help. Steam, which can be generated by a hot shower or by consuming hot soup, can also alleviate sinus congestion. Additionally, honey can be used to relieve cough symptoms in individuals above the age of one.
It is important to note that antibiotics are not effective in treating viral cold infections and should only be taken if prescribed by a healthcare provider. When in doubt, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice on choosing the right over-the-counter cold medication.