Consumer Reports clarifies what cold and flu labels really mean

Consumer Reports clarifies what cold and flu labels really mean

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Picking out cold and flu products, while already feeling under the weather, is often a hassle.

With so many over-the-counter options, Americans are spending nearly $6 billion a year on cold and flu products.

"There are hundreds of products on store shelves and an incredible amount of confusion," Consumer Reports' Lisa Gill said.

To make things easier, Consumer Reports has published a primer on over-the-counter product labels.

If you have a nasty cough, an "expectorant" will encourage you to cough more, to get rid of the extra phlegm and mucus. If your cough is annoying and dry, you may opt for a cough "suppressant", which block the cough reflex.

But, experts suggest watching for the pain reliever, acetaminophen, if you're looking at multi-symptom products.

"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," Gill said.

Too much acetaminophen, however, can cause liver damage.

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

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

"We recommend highly chicken soup. The research on it is terrific," Gill said. Hot chicken soup can ease congestion and may reduce inflammation in the body, she added.

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

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