If a doctor asks you what medications you're on, what comes to mind? Many people only list their prescription medications, but over-the-counter medications -- including vitamins, supplements and herbals -- all need to be considered. Since we often choose to treat cold symptoms ourselves without a doctor's visit (and since he or she may just tell you to take over-the-counter stuff anyway), you might forget this crucial step when choosing a cold-reduction medication.
That's why it's necessary to do your research. Combination cold medications, for example, shouldn't be taken by people who are also on monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors -- used to treat illnesses such as depression and anxiety -- due to potentially dangerous interactions. It's also important to take other health conditions into consideration. You may not think that your high blood pressure would have anything to do with your cold, but you need to be careful when taking decongestants such as pseudoephedrine. Decongestants narrow the blood vessels in your nose to get rid of stuffiness, so they can also narrow other blood vessels and raise your blood pressure. There are cold medications specifically for people with high blood pressure that your doctor can recommend.
If you're not sure about which cold-reduction medications are OK for you, call your doctor's office. Many of them have "advice lines" staffed by nurses who can answer questions. You can also talk to your pharmacist, who can look for potential interactions between cold medicine you're interested in and prescriptions you already have.