* Make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage. The FDA advisory panel recommended a significant reduction in dosing for acetaminophen, the most popular over-the-counter drug for pain relief and fever reduction. This is because even small overdoses of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. Acetaminophen can be found in Tylenol products, as well as many multi-symptom cold and flu medicines, such as DayQuil, NyQuil and Theraflu.
* Do not take drugs longer than recommended. The drug found in most medicated over-the-counter nasal sprays, oxymetazoline, should not be used for more than three days. Longer use could
lead to rebound effect, which causes more congestion. This drug is found in brands such as Afrin, Vicks Sinex and Zicam.
* Never use over-the-counter pediatric cough and cold drugs in kids younger than four. Drug manufacturers voluntarily changed the label of pediatric cough and cold medicines after consulting with the FDA, which had been reviewing the safety of these drugs in children.
* Consider use of the growing number of natural or non-medicated alternatives with clinically proven effectiveness.
- Studies have shown that capsaicin nasal sprays safely and effectively relieve nasal congestion, sinus pressure and headache. One brand, Sinus Buster Nasal Spray (www.BusterBrands.com), has been clinically shown to break up congestion and start providing sinus relief in under one minute. The study also confirmed Sinus Buster's safety; no rebound effect or loss of smell was associated with its use.
- Honey may offer a safe and effective way to relieve coughs -; a study revealed that children taking honey before bed slept better than children taking cough medicine.
- Black elderberry extract has been clinically shown to shorten the duration of the flu if taken when symptoms first appear. In one clinical study, Sambucol, a brand of elderberry extract, reduced flu duration by four days.
- Neti-pots effectively rinse the nasal passage with a salt-water solution that helps flush out the allergens, irritants and excess mucus that can lead to sinus problems and pain.