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Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines with Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers

The common cold, flu, and allergies are different health conditions, but they also share a lot of the same symptoms. These symptoms can include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, and chest congestion.

What Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines Are For

The common cold is often associated with several symptoms occurring at the same time. Multi-symptom cold medicines, also known as cough and cold combination products, are medicines that are used to treat multiple symptoms that can accompany a cold or flu. Be sure to review the general tips for the safe use of multi-symptom cold medicines.

In addition to the tips in the general multi-symptom cold medicine section, below is information regarding multi-symptom cold medicines that also contain ingredients for pain and fever.

Headache, sore throat, body aches: Some multi-symptom cold medicines contain pain reliever and fever reducer active ingredients that relieve headache, mild sore throat, and other body aches by increasing the body’s tolerance for pain. See additional information on pain reliever and fever reducer active ingredients.

Fever: Some multi-symptom cold medicines contain active ingredients to reduce fever. They do this by sending a signal to the brain to lower the body’s temperature. See additional information on pain reliever and fever reducer active ingredients.

Some multi-symptom cold medicines may contain an active ingredient for pain (pain reliever) or fever (fever reducer). There are two basic types of pain relievers and fever reducers: 1) products containing acetaminophen, and 2) a group of products known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Pain-reliever and fever-reducer active ingredients in multi-symptom cold medicines include:

*Not all products sold under a brand contain the same ingredients. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products.

Additional Tips and Information for the Safe Use of Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines Containing Acetaminophen

  • Always read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.
  • Do not take more medicine or for a longer period of time than what the label states unless you are under the supervision of a doctor. Never take more than the maximum daily dose list on the Drug Facts label.
  • You should choose a multi-symptom cold medicine which matches the symptoms you have (see under the section “Uses” in the OTC Drug Facts label).
  • Because acetaminophen can be found in over 600 medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, always look to see if the medicine you are taking contains acetaminophen.
  • Do not take more than one acetaminophen-containing medicine, including prescription or over-the-counter, as you may be taking too much. Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to an overdose and possibly liver damage.
  • Acetaminophen may be written as “APAP” on prescription drugs, but it is the same ingredient.
  • If you think you have taken or given too much of a medicine, immediately contact your doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a healthcare professional before use.
  • Check with your doctor before using a multi-symptom cold medicine containing acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
  • If you are taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin, speak with a healthcare professional before use.
  • Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before use if you consume three or more alcoholic drinks a day.

Additional Tips and Information for the Safe Use of Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines Containing NSAIDs

  • Always read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.
  • Do not take more medicine or for a longer period of time than what the label recommends unless you are under the supervision of a doctor.
  • You should choose a multi-symptom cold medicine which matches the symptoms you have (see under the section “Uses” in the OTC Drug Facts label).
  • Talk to a healthcare professional before taking a multi-symptom cold medicine containing an NSAID at the same time as another medicine containing an NSAID.
  • Stop use and contact your doctor if your fever gets worse or lasts more than three days or if your pain gets worse or lasts more than 10 days.
  • If you think you have taken or given too much of a medicine, immediately contact your doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
  • If you have signs of stomach bleeding, such as feeling faint, vomiting blood, bloody or black stools, or stomach pain that does not get better, contact your doctor.
  • If you are taking a multi-symptom cold medicine that contains aspirin, contact a doctor if an allergic reaction occurs, such as hives, facial swelling, wheezing, or shock.
  • If you have a history of peptic ulcer disease, you should avoid using a multi-symptom cold medicine containing aspirin.
  • Do not give any OTC medicine that is only intended for an adult to a child.
  • If you are a woman in the last three months of pregnancy, do not use a multi-symptom cold medicine containing an NSAID unless you are specifically told to do so by a doctor.

Tips for Parents

All of the tips for the safe use of OTC multi-symptom cold medicine containing the active ingredient acetaminophen in this section also apply to children. But like most OTC medicines, there are some additional considerations when it comes to treating kids.

  • Do not give any type of oral multi-symptom cold medicine to a child under the age of four.
  • Never give more than the amount listed on the label and never give more than the maximum daily dose listed in one day.
  • Acetaminophen-containing medicines are available in different dosage strengths. Do not give an OTC multi-symptom medicine containing acetaminophen to a child that is only intended for use in adults as this would provide more than the recommended dose and could lead to an overdose and possibly liver damage.
  • Severe liver damage may occur if your child takes more than the maximum daily dosage in 24 hours or takes more than one medicine containing acetaminophen.
  • Be sure to read the multi-symptom cold medicine’s label for proper child dosing instructions and contact a healthcare professional as directed.
  • If your child has a severe sore throat that lasts for more than two days, or gets a fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting while on the medicine, stop using the medicine and contact a healthcare professional immediately.
  • Only use the dosing device enclosed with the medicine (if applicable).
  • Talk to a doctor before giving a medicine containing acetaminophen to a child with liver disease.

All of the tips for the safe use of OTC multi-symptom cold medicine containing NSAID active ingredients in this section also apply to children. But like most OTC medicines, there are some additional tips to keep in mind when treating kids.

  • Do not give any type of oral multi-symptom cold medicine to a child under the age of four.
  • Never give an aspirin-containing medicine to a child or teenager with chicken pox or flu symptoms due to a rare illness called Reye’s syndrome, which is reported to be associated with this ingredient.
  • Only use the measuring device that came with the medicine (if applicable).
  • If your child has a severe sore throat that lasts for more than two days, or gets a fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting while on the medicine, stop use and contact a healthcare professional immediately.
  • Talk to a doctor before giving an OTC multi-symptom cold medicine containing ibuprofen to a child if the child has not been drinking fluids, has lost a lot of fluid due to vomiting or diarrhea, or is taking a diuretic.
  • Do not give an OTC multi-symptom cold medicine containing naproxen sodium to a child under the age of 12 unless you are under the advice and supervision of a doctor.
  • Do not give an OTC multi-symptom cold medicine containing aspirin to a child under the age of 12 unless you are under the advice and supervision of a doctor.

Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

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