Over-The-Counter Medications for Colds and Flu

Choosing Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medications

Most cold symptoms can be relieved with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With so many medications to choose from when you have a cold or flu, choosing the best product can be tough. It is important to read the labels of each product. Most cold and flu medicines contain a combination of ingredients. If you take more than one product, you may actually be getting a double dose of an active ingredient and/or not getting enough of another. Use OTC medications for temporary use only, unless instructed by your health care provider.

Young adults should avoid taking aspirin for cold symptoms. Aspirin, which contains salicylates, has been implicated in the development of Reye Syndrome, an uncommon, but serious complication of viral illnesses, such as colds in children and young adults. Tylenol® (Acetaminophen) is a better choice.

Stop by the Pharmacy at Student Health Services to purchase over-the-counter medications for your cold or flu.

Below is a guide in choosing the correct OTC medicines based on your symptoms.

Choosing OTC Medications

Symptoms Medication

Clogged, stuffy nose

Nasal decongestant

Saline Nasal Spray

Cough without phlegm

Cough suppressant

Cough with phlegm


Runny nose and sneezing


Fever, headache, minor aches and pains

Pain reliever (analgesic)

Sore throat

Analgesic lozenge