Do Cold medicines actually work?

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When you stroll down the cold and flu aisle in a drugstore, it’s easy to get lost in the dizzying array of products promising to clear sinus pressure, dry up sniffles and stop plaguing coughs. Some concoctions even offer it all in one magical pill.

But doctors say the science behind some of those claims is lackluster.

“There’s just not much that’s very effective for treating the common cold,” said Dr. Lauren Eggert, clinical assistant professor in the Pulmonary Allergy and Critical Care Division at Stanford University.

“Most of the things out there — antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines — none of them have a lot of evidence that they’re super effective at improving cough or common cold symptoms.”

Headlines blasted that message in September when advisers to the FDA found oral phenylephrine, which is an active ingredient in some Sudafed, Mucinex, and Dayquil products, is simply not effective. The review was prompted by inquiries dating back nearly a decade.

And pharmacists say that concerns over effectiveness could extend down the aisle. Half a dozen medical experts interviewed for this story raised questions about other cold and flu ingredients, including other common cough suppressants and expectorants.


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!