Consumer Reports: Decoding Over-The-Counter Flu Meds - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Consumer Reports: Decoding Over-The-Counter Flu Meds

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It's one of the worst flu seasons in years, but trying to figure out a good over-the-counter medicine to take can make your head spin. Consumer Reports helps you decode treatments for the flu and other ailments.

Choosing medicine for a cold, flu, and other aches and pains can be overwhelming!

Why is the drug aisle so confusing?

Dr. Marvin Lipman: "The problem is labels like extra strength, maximum strength, or ultra
strength really have no standard definition."

Take ultra-strength Tums. It has 100% more of its active ingredient than the regular version. But Gas-X ultra-strength has 125% more of its active ingredient.

Dr. Marvin Lipman/Consumer Reports: "The point is you really have to read the label in order to know how much you're taking."

Claims like "all day" and "long acting" are tricky, too. All-Day Aleve lasts up to 12 hours. But this all-day medicine lasts 24 hours.And with drugs that promise to relieve multiple symptoms, like a cold, flu, and sore throat, you could end up taking something you don't need.

Marvin Lipman:"Drugs that treat multiple symptoms often have more than one ingredient,
sometimes as many as four."

So if you take another medicine that contains one of those ingredients, you might wind up taking too much.

Consumer Reports says best is choosing a single ingredient drug whenever you can, like ibuprofen for aches and pains … or acetaminophen for a fever or headache.

And when in doubt, check with a pharmacist for help understanding over- the-counter drug labels.

Consumer Reports says drugs that say "P-M" or "non-drowsy" can be confusing also. If the label says P-M, it probably contains an antihistamine that'll help you fall asleep. But if the label says "non-drowsy," don't assume the drug will help you stay alert. Only some have caffeine or another stimulant that'll keep you awake.

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