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    Most of us will get sick at some point during the cold and flu season. So, why not plan ahead and avoid a frantic drugstore trip when you're already sick?


    Here are some of the most useful cold and flu season items to have on hand for the upcoming winter months.


    Pain and Fever Relief

    Believe it or not, a fever is actually protective and helps the body fight infection. So, you do not automatically need to take medication if you have an elevated temperature. However, if you are uncomfortable due to fever, sore throat or general body aches and pains, you can medicate with over-the-counter (OTC) fever reducers and pain medications, including the following:


    • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They help reduce fever and the inflammation that causes pain.


    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not an NSAID but does help to reduce fever and relieve pain.


    • Children's Motrin and Children's Tylenol are specially formulated for the youngest members of your family. Look at the age and weight dosing guidelines to know how much to give. If your child's weight does not fall in the same dose range as their age, contact a physician for dosage recommendations.


    Cough Medications

    You have several different options for cough relief. Consider the following medications:


    • Cough suppressant only. Cough suppressants inhibit the cough reflex. The most common example is dextromethorphan. Most formulations are available as a 12-hour liquid, including Delsym and Robitussin DM, which provide overnight relief.


    • Expectorant only. Expectorants loosen secretions, making them easier to cough up. These are best for congested, "wet" coughs. Some examples include Mucinex and Robitussin, both containing the active ingredient guaifenesin.


    • Combination cough suppressant and expectorant. These cough medications contain both a cough-suppressing agent and an expectorant, such as Mucinex DM or Robitussin Cough + Chest Congestion DM.


    Cough Remedies for Children

    Children under four years of age should not take any OTC cough medicines. Children age four to six may take cough medicine under the advice of a pediatrician.


    For older kids, Rite Aid pharmacists recommend Vicks Children's Cough or Zarbee's Kids Cough + Immune Syrup.*


    Nasal Decongestants

    Nasal decongestants reduce swelling in the nasal passages, clearing nasal congestion and making breathing easier. Sudafed PE Day + Night has a non-drowsy decongestant for daytime and an added antihistamine for nighttime relief of nasal congestion with sleeplessness.


    Multi-Symptom Relief

    If you do not want to take an individual medication for each symptom you're having, there are several different OTC multi-symptom cold and flu relief remedies. If your throat is too sore to swallow capsules, you can try Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe Cold & Flu fizz tablets or Vicks DayQuil & NyQuil Hot Remedy powder mix.


    Older kids can take Dimetapp Children's Cough & Cold Congestion or Hyland's 4Kids Cold 'n Cough.**


    It's important to check the label of your OTC cold and flu medication before taking any additional OTC remedies. Many OTC cough and cold medications contain the same active ingredients found in fever and pain relievers, decongestants and cough medications, so you may run the risk of over-medicating yourself if you're not careful. For example, most OTC cold and flu medications also contain the fever-reducing medications acetaminophen or ibuprofen.


    Symptom Relief for People with High Blood Pressure

    Some active ingredients in OTC cough, cold and congestion remedies can raise your blood pressure. Speak with your pharmacist if you're unsure whether your OTC cough and cold medicine may increase your blood pressure. Coricidin HBP products are specially formulated for people with high blood pressure.


    Supplements and Prevention

    Supplements can support your immune system, preventing you from getting sick or helping you recover faster.


    Flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 vaccines are available at most Rite Aid pharmacies. Schedule an appointment online or visit one of our stores to speak with a pharmacist about which vaccines are right for you.


    Non-Medication Relief

    Not all cold and flu remedies are medications. Here are a few more product suggestions that may alleviate your symptoms.


    • Honey is a natural cough suppressant, but infants under 12 months are at risk for botulism poising if they ingest honey. For children over the age of one, you may give one-half to one teaspoon of honey as needed for cough.


    • Heating pads can relieve the muscle aches and pains that accompany the flu.


    • An infant bulb syringe is useful for suctioning nasal secretions from babies and small children.


    • Herbal or honey lemon lozenges can soothe a sore throat and alleviate a cough.


    • Soothing hot beverages like chamomile or sleepytime tea can ease symptoms and help you get to rest.*


    • Neti pots flush the nasal passages with distilled water and a mild salt solution to clear congested sinuses.


    • Warm steam vaporizers are particularly helpful for nighttime cough. Add some liquid camphor to the water for additional relief.


    • Chest rubs like Vicks VapoRub are an alternative to vaporizers and steam. They provide soothing cough relief, especially at night.


    • Grandma was right! Chicken noodle soup has properties that relieve cold and flu symptoms. Campbell's Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup will do the trick if you're not well enough to cook for yourself.


    • You'll need plenty of facial tissues for your runny nose.


    • An oral thermometer is useful for monitoring fevers and your response to fever-reducing medications. A non-contact infrared forehead thermometer may be faster and easier to use on children who cannot remain still long enough to take an oral temperature.
    • Don't spread your germs! Protect those around you by washing your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Keep disinfecting wipes handy for cleaning frequently touched surfaces.



    Whatever happens this winter, you can be prepared to feel better as soon as possible. Our pharmacists are available to answer any questions you have regarding OTC cold and flu remedies. Stay well!


    Written by: Cyra-Lea Drummond, BSN, RN


    *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


    **These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Homeopathic products are not approved or evaluated by the FDA for safety or effectiveness and their product claims are based on traditional homeopathic practice, not current accepted scientific or medical evidence of safety or efficacy. Please consult with your healthcare provider before starting any homeopathic product regimen or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.


    These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.


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