Amari is a freelance writer with a focus on health, culture, and relationships. She has a degree in communications from Le Moyne College and is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
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Ashley Hall is a writer and fact checker who has been published in multiple medical journals in the field of surgery." data-inline-tooltip="true">Ashley Hall
Ashley Hall is a writer and fact checker who has been published in multiple medical journals in the field of surgery.
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country." data-inline-tooltip="true">Michael Menna, DO
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.
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Best Overall: NyQuil and DayQuil SEVERE Caplets with Vicks VapoCool at Amazon
"Both caplets contain similar ingredients, like a decongestant to unclog your nose and an expectorant to loosen up the mucus in your chest and relieve coughs."
Best for Sinus Pain: Vicks Sinex Severe Sinus Pressure & Pain Non-Drowsy LiquiCaps at Amazon
"The all-in-one sinus relief is said to work in as little as 30 minutes, so there’s no need to sit around waiting for it to kick in."
Best Drink Mix: Theraflu Multi-Symptom Severe Cold Tea Infusions at Amazon
"The powder pairs nicely with hot water to serve a warm, comforting drink."
Best for Night: GoodSense NightTime Cold and Flu Relief at Amazon
"This cherry-flavored liquid attacks both by combining the work of a pain reliever, fever reducer, cough suppressant, and antihistamine."
Best for Kids: Children’s Tylenol at Amazon
"If your child’s symptoms include pain and fever, acetaminophen like Tylenol is a tried-and-true method."
Best Tasting: Theraflu PowerPods Daytime Severe Cold at Amazon
"The pods have the active ingredient of acetaminophen to ease pain and fever, dextromethorphan to suppress your cough, and phenylephrine for nasal decongestion."
Best for Cough: Robitussin Cough and Chest Congestion DM Liquid-Filled Capsules at Amazon
"Dextromethorphan is always trusted when it comes to gaining control over a cough."
Best for Day: Mucinex Fast-Max Max Strength, Cold, Flu, & Sore Throat Liquid at Amazon
"Mucinex Fast-Max Max Strength can take away your sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever in a single dose ."
Heading to the drug store to pick up cold and flu medicine seems like a simple enough task, but your symptoms could just get worse before you figure out which of the hundreds of options in the medicine aisle is right for you.
Before starting your quest for the best medicine, you must first understand the difference between the flu, the common cold, and allergies. Errol McKenzie, MD, founder of Family Medicine Associates of Fayetteville, says a lot of patients tend to misinterpret symptoms, so it’s important to make sure you get tested for the flu within the first 24 to 48 hours. If you’re positive, then your doctor can prescribe you antivirals to shorten the course of your flu or improve some of your symptoms.
If you test negative and your flu-like symptoms continue, consult with your doctor on the best next steps. If your symptoms align with the flu and involve joint aches, respiratory issues, and a fever, then you can make your way to your local drugstore. Just remember to keep in mind your personal medical history as you browse the medicine aisle. “If you have hypertension, asthma, cardiovascular disease, allergies, or eczema, you have to make sure that the ingredients in these over-the-counter medications don't destabilize your existing medical condition,” explains Dr. McKenzie.
Even if you’re tempted to go with a familiar brand, carefully read through the box for warnings and ingredients. “Make sure you're not allergic to anything in it and that there are no sedative effects because if there are, driving can be prohibitive under those circumstances,” warns Dr. McKenzie.
Here are some of the most trusted over-the-counter flu medicines to have on hand.
Flu symptoms can be relentless, from the moment you wake to the moment you hit the bed. That’s why the DayQuil and NyQuil SEVERE combo pack is a trusted friend of those sick with flu-like symptoms; it doubles down on what’s hurting the most, whether that’s your head due to a fever or your throat due to a cough.
You can begin your morning with the DayQuil caplets without fear of drowsiness setting in during a busy workday. Then you can turn to NyQuil when you’re ready for bed and allow the antihistamine components of the caplet to ease you into a nice stupor. Aside from the antihistamine, both types of caplets contain similar ingredients, like a decongestant to unclog your nose and an expectorant to loosen up the mucus in your chest and relieve coughs.
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DayQuil uses active ingredients acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, and phenylephrine while NyQuil uses acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine succinate, and phenylephrine.