OTC Product Roundup: Cough, Cold, and Flu

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics January/February 2024
Volume 168
Issue 01

These OTC products are recommended to address a variety of symptoms that occur during cold and flu seasons.

For chest congestion…

Mucinex Extended-Release Bi-Layer Tablets

Guaifenesin tablet, extended release

This expectorant works by loosening phlegm and thin bronchial secretions to create more productive coughs. The extended-release version of this product provides extended relief in the form of a bilayered tablet: One side provides immediate relief, whereas the other side continues working for up to 12 hours.

Counseling Pearls

  • Children younger than 12 years should not use this product.
  • The bilayer tablets should be taken as directed, with a full glass of water; they should not be crushed, chewed, or broken.
  • Patients should consult a health care provider if their cough lasts longer than 7 days, comes back, or occurs with a fever, rash, or persistent headache.

For nighttime symptoms...

NyQuil Cold and Flu

Acetaminophen, dextromethorphan hydrobromide, and doxylamine succinate capsule, liquid filled

Liquid-filled NyQuil capsule / mikenat187 - stock.adobe.com

Liquid-filled NyQuil capsule / mikenat187 - stock.adobe.com

One of the best-known nighttime symptom relief products, NyQuil Cold and Flu, is available in both liquid and capsule forms. Like its liquid counterpart, these capsules are intended to relieve common cold and flu symptoms that can prevent a good night’s sleep, including cough, sore throat, headache, minor aches and pains, fever, and runny noses and sneezing.

Counseling Pearls

  • NyQuil Cold and Flu contains acetaminophen. Severe liver damage may occur if this product is taken with other acetaminophen-containing drugs, with multiple daily alcoholic drinks, or in doses higher than recommended.
  • Patients with liver disease or glaucoma should consult a health care provider before use. Those taking sedatives, tranquilizers, or warfarin should consult with a health care provider or pharmacist.
  • Acetaminophen can cause severe skin reactions, including skin reddening, blisters, and rash. If any of these symptoms occur, use should be discontinued.

For pediatric coughs...

Children’s Delsym Cough+ Chest Congestion DM

Dextromethorphan hydrobromide and guaifenesin solution

Children’s Delsym works to loosen phlegm and other bronchial secretions, leading to more productive coughs. The product also temporarily relieves coughing due to throat and bronchial irritation that may occur with a cold, the intensity of coughing, and the impulse to cough.

Counseling Pearls

  • Children with a persistent or chronic cough, such as a cough that occurs with asthma, or a cough that occurs with too much phlegm should consult with their health care provider before use.
  • No more than 6 doses should be administered in a 24-hour period.
  • This product should not be administered with other cold or cough medications that contain the same or similar ingredients.

For a sore throat...

HALLS Relief Max Strength Extra Strong Menthol Throat Drops

Menthol lozenge

This oral anesthetic temporarily relieves minor irritation and pain associated with a sore throat, which is a common symptom of cold and flu. For patients looking for a more flavorful option, HALLS lozenges come in a wide range of flavors, such as honey lemon, cherry, strawberry, and butterscotch.

Counseling Pearls

  • If a patient’s sore throat is severe, persists for more than 2 days, or is accompanied by adverse effects such as fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting, recommend a consult with their health care provider.
  • Patients should also consult a health care provider if their sore throat or mouth does not improve in 7 days or if symptoms persist or worsen.
  • Adults and children aged 5 years and older should repeat use every 2 hours as needed.
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