In drugstore aisles, over-the-counter medications are organized by symptoms. To find the right match, think about cause. “When you see your symptoms on the front of the box, flip it over to see the active ingredients,” says Steven Seeberger, RPH, Director of Pharmacy Services at Good Samaritan Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “There are many cold and allergy medications. The rule is: If your runny-nose symptoms are being caused by the common cold, you should select a decongestant. If your runny nose is caused by seasonal allergy, you should use an antihistamine. If you see the word “PM” in the name of the medication, it contains a sleep aid.”
Seeberger also notes an increase in the quantity of homeopathic medications, indicated by the asterisk following the symptoms they claim to treat. “Be aware as a consumer that these medications are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration,” he says. Seeberger advises speaking to a pharmacist to aid decision-making, especially when your medical history changes. As for products that treat a cluster of symptoms: “It is never a good idea to overmedicate, so I would always advise you to treat only the symptoms you are experiencing. If you don’t have a fever with your common cold, why take acetaminophen?”
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