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Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:30 am

What’s in Your Cold Medicine?

Some head colds can make you feel
like an  Alpine explorer!
(Photo credit: A. Tucker)

The Alps are a magnificent sight to behold… with peaks ranging in height from 6000 to 8000 feet above sea level… very few of us have ventured to explore them. However, when you have a cold and are feeling under the weather it sure can feel as if you are traversing the Alps from peak to towering peak! 
Head congestion and fever associated with the common cold or flu can bring on a plethora of uncomfortable symptoms. Sinus congestion, headache, body aches, and chills drive many of us to seek relief from one or more of the available cold medications.

With several types of cold relief products to choose from, selecting the right product or combination of products can present a challenge… one not to be taken lightly.


The ingredient panel found on the packaging is the place to look for complete product ingredient listing… particularly the active ingredients. If you take prescription medications, it is very important to read all warnings and precautions included on or with the package, as well as consult with your pharmacist or prescriber to ensure these medications are compatible.

One ingredient frequently found in cold relief products that can lead to potential health issues is Acetaminophen, commonly referred to as apap. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and a fever reducer. It is also found in many prescription pain medications.  
Acetaminophen (or apap) is metabolized or cleared by the liver and can cause liver damage if taken in high doses or by someone with liver problems. The recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen (or apap) for a person with a healthy liver is not to exceed 3000 mg. This is usually achieved in recommended doses of up to 1000 mg of acetaminophen (or apap) every 6 to 8 hours, up to a total daily dose of 3000 mg.
When taking multiple types of medication, whether non-prescription and/or prescription, it is very important to read all related written materials and become familiar with ingredients, warnings and precautions. This is especially important when consuming products containing acetaminophen (or apap). 
The next time you find yourself feeling like an Alpine explorer in need of relief from cold or flu symptoms, head over to the pharmacy. Your pharmacist will be happy to assist you.