Medicines for the Common Cold
Making Sense of OTC Cold and Cough Medications
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD
Unsure about the hundreds of cold and flupreparations on the drugstore shelves? You're not alone. Deciding among the OTC (over-the-counter) remedies for cold, flu, or allergysymptoms can be intimidating, and a basic understanding of the types of drugs contained in these medications can help you make an informed choice.
Decongestants are the drugs of choice for a stuffy, congested nose. Decongestants act by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose, leading to decreased blood flow in the nasal tissues and reduced leakage of fluid from the nose. Decongestants can either be taken orally or applied locally (topically) in the form of nasal sprays or drops.