January 14, 2024

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As winter wraps us in its chilly embrace, we often find ourselves reaching for that trusty bottle of over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine to combat the common cold or flu. It's a familiar scene in many households: the sniffling, the coughing, the general feeling of being under the weather. But while these medicines can be a godsend in alleviating symptoms, they also carry risks that we must be mindful of.

At the Iowa Poison Control Center (IPCC), our poison specialists are on hand round the clock to provide expert information and guidance on a variety of potential poisonings, including those related to OTC cold medicines. In this blog post, we will explore the risks associated with these medicines, offer tips on safe usage and explain how our specialists can be your trusted source of help in case of emergencies.

The Common Cold: A Winter Woe

The common cold is a viral infection that primarily affects the nose and throat. Symptoms often include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing and a general feeling of malaise. While not usually serious, a cold can make you feel quite miserable.

To combat these unpleasant symptoms, many of us turn to OTC cold medicines. These readily available drugs can help suppress symptoms and make you feel better faster. They come in various forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids and nasal sprays, and often contain a combination of ingredients to treat multiple symptoms at once.

While OTC cold medicines are generally safe when used as directed, they can pose risks if misused. Here are some potential dangers:

  • Overdosing: Cold medicines often contain multiple active ingredients. Taking more than the recommended dose, or combining different medicines that contain the same ingredients, can lead to an overdose.
  • Side Effects: Some people may experience side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, nausea or increased heart rate.
  • Interactions with Other Drugs: Cold medicines can interact with other drugs, leading to potentially harmful effects.

Preventing Accidental Poisoning from OTC Cold Medicines

Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing accidental poisoning. Here are some tips to ensure safe usage of OTC cold medicines:

  • Read the Label: Always read the label carefully and follow the recommended dosage instructions.
  • Avoid Combining Medications: Unless advised by a healthcare professional, avoid taking multiple medicines that contain the same active ingredients.
  • Keep Out of Reach of Children: Store medicines in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
  • Seek Medical Advice: If you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications, always seek medical advice before taking a new OTC cold medicine.

Your Lifeline: The Poison Specialists at the Iowa Poison Control Center

In case of any concerns or emergencies related to OTC cold medicines, our poison specialists at the Iowa Poison Control Center are your lifeline. Available 24/7, they can provide expert advice and guidance to help manage the situation.

OTC cold medicines can be a valuable tool in managing the symptoms of the common cold or flu. However, it's crucial to be aware of the potential risks and to use these medicines responsibly. And remember, if you ever have any concerns or emergencies relating to OTC cold medicines, don't hesitate to reach out to the Iowa Poison Control Center. We're here to help, no matter the season. Stay safe, stay informed, and here's to a healthier winter for us all!

For More Information:

Iowa Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222

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