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Can Over-the-Counter Products Like Cough Syrups and Decongestants Really Reduce the Intensity of a Cold?

Contrary to popular belief, over the counter (OTC) products cannot treat or cure the virus causing a cold. Still, many of these formulations can help you feel a bit better by lessening the intensity of some uncomfortable cold symptoms (like coughing or sneezing). My advice: Target products to treat your specific symptoms. For instance, don’t choose a multi-symptom product for cough, cold, and fever, if all you’re suffering from is a stuffy nose. Why? The extra medication in some products can make you feel needlessly drowsy or nervous -- depending upon their list of ingredients. Consumers should also scan the labels of all OTC meds before taking multiple products, since some duplication of ingredients like acetaminophen are often present in more than one cold product and this may lead to exceeding the recommended dosage.

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