Over the counter medications for cold and flu

University at Albany
Student Health Services
Patient Information for Symptom Relief for Colds, Flu, and Upper Respiratory
There are more than 300 viruses that may infect the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include any of the
following in various combinations and degrees of severity: sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, and cough.
Since antibiotics are ineffective against cold and flu viruses, their use is not warranted and potentially
However, you may choose to treat the symptoms. The medications recommended below may or may not help to
make you more comfortable as your body eliminates the viral infection (usually within 7-14 days).
Points to remember:
1. Diet: Eat balanced meals. Increase fluid intake, which will help to lower your temperature, replace fluids
lost through fever and help to keep lung secretions thin. If your stomach is upset, limit your diet to clear liquids
until symptoms improve. Clear liquids include tea (with sugar or honey if desired), coke, ginger ale, 7-Up,
popsicles, Jell-O, bouillon or chicken broth. Under no circumstances should you share the use of glasses, cups,
etc. with others.
2. Rest: The body needs rest in order to direct energy towards the production of antibodies.
3. Medications for symptom relief: These should not be combined with alcohol. Read the label before taking
any over-the-counter medication for information on potential side effects and potential interactions with other
medication. Many over-the-counter cold medications contain the same ingredients and should not be taken
together. If you have any questions regarding this, you should ask your health care provider or one of the
4. Body aches, headache, fever:
 Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 325 mg-take 2 every 6 hours as needed.
 Ibuprofen (Advil) 200 mg-take 1 to 2 every 4- 6 hours as needed (Take with food).
5. Nasal congestion/runny nose:
 Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE/Sudagest PE) 10 mg-take 1 every 4 hours as needed.
6. Cough:
Guaifenesin DM (Robitussin DM) - take 2 teaspoons every 4 hours as needed.
7. Sore throat:
Gargle with salt water (1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 cup of warm water) several times a day.
You may also use acetaminophen or ibuprofen as above.
When to call for a Student Health Services appointment (518-442-5229):
 Fever greater than 100.40 F. persisting for more than 3 days
 Symptoms lasting longer than 14 days OR worsening symptoms after 7-10 days
 If you feel short of breath during mild exertion or when resting.
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