5 Tips for Choosing a Cold-reduction Medicine

Watch For Overlapping Ingredients
A multisymptom medicine may not always be the best solution.
A multisymptom medicine may not always be the best solution.
Tom Le Goff/Valueline/Thinkstock

There are a lot of different medications on the market that can be used to treat your cold symptoms, and you probably already have some of them in your medicine cabinet at home. For example, what do you reach for when you have a headache? We all have our preferences, whether it's acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), ibuprofen (such as Motrin), naproxen sodium (such as Aleve) or that old standby, aspirin. (By the way, brand names don't really matter if the ingredients are the same.) Suppose you get a headache and you take a couple of acetaminophen tablets. Then a few hours later, you realize that you're getting a stuffy nose and a sore throat. What should you take next?

A multisymptom cold/flu medication such as DayQuil might initially seem like a good idea, because the package states that it will help relieve your cold symptoms. However, if you take a look at the active ingredients, you'll see that acetaminophen is one of them. Your acetaminophen bottle probably advises you to take two 325 milligram tablets or caplets every four to six hours. If you take that combination medicine within a few hours of taking the plain Tylenol, you'll be taking more acetaminophen than you should. Acetaminophen overdosing can have serious side effects, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Either wait until you're out of that four- to six-hour window, or take medications without acetaminophen to treat your other symptoms.