Choosing The Right Cold & Flu Treatment For You

Choosing The Right Cold & Flu Medication For You

Symptoms from colds and flu can become frustrating and interfere with your day, choosing the right treatment for the symptoms that distress you the most will help you feel better quicker!


A dry cough is one that is tickly and will not be productive (does not bring up any mucus from the lungs). Conversely, a chesty cough is productive and you will bring up mucus when you cough.

For dry coughs, products containing cough suppressants will be more beneficial and reduce your cough reflex e.g. Pholcodine, Dextromethorphan.

For chesty coughs, products containing expectorants are for thinning mucus and make it easier to clear e.g. Guaifenesin.


Congestion can be a nuisance in the chest and nose, the stuffy sensation can make it difficult to breathe normally. Decongestants are commonly added to cold and flu products, and are great for relieving nasal and chest congestion.

Sore Throat

Common medicines for sore throats like lozenges are very useful for mild cases, they coat the mouth and throat with a sugary film, soothing your throat in the short term. 

Throat sprays are also available, they are highly effective and offer slightly longer lasting relief from pain in the throat, they often contain the numbing agent Benzocaine.


This effective pain killer offers a good all-round relief from cold and flu symptoms.

Because of this, most cold and flu products will contain Paracetamol - It’s known to be effective at relieving aches, pains, headache, fever and chills. However, do not take any other medicine containing paracetamol whilst you are taking these medicines.

Drowsy vs. Non-Drowsy

Medicines for cold and flu can often have a warning for drowsiness, be especially aware of this if you are driving. This effect is often most prominent in products containing antihistamines which reduce runny nose and itchy watery eyes e.g. Promethazine. 

This effect however can be harnessed at night time, as it can help you to fall asleep when your symptoms are keeping you awake.

Your local Pharmacy will be able to advise on the best products for your cold and flu symptoms.

Written by Charlotte Broadbent and approved by Conor McSorley (GPhC 2223070)