Cold medicine confusion: Terms to watch out for on over-the-coun - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Cold medicine confusion: Terms to watch out for on over-the-counter labels

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With cold and flu season approaching, Consumer Reports has published a primer on over-the-counter product labels to help consumers find the best medicines for their symptoms. 

If you have a nasty cough, an "expectorant" will encourage you to cough more to get rid of extra phlegm and mucus, while a "suppressant" will block the cough reflex for coughs that are more annoying.

But watch for the pain reliever "acetaminophen" if you're looking at "multi-symptom" products. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

"Acetaminophen shows up in all of these different products, sometimes when you don't really even need it. It's easy to get too much of it, and that's something that we were really concerned about," said Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports says anything labeled "severe" suggests the manufacturer added an extra ingredient, so a detailed read of the label is a good idea.

When in doubt, ask a pharmacist. They're glad to come out from behind the counter and help you find the right medication to feel better, faster. 

Also remember, the kitchen can be just as good as the drug store at treating cold symptoms.

"We recommend highly chicken soup," Gill said. "The research on it is terrific!"

Hot chicken soup can ease congestion and may reduce inflammation in the body.

Click here to read the full Consumer Reports primer.

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