6 Cold and Flu Medication Ingredients to Avoid

When experiencing the symptoms of a cold or flu, most people don’t think twice about taking some over-the-counter medicine for relief. After all, health professionals recommend them and they are taken by millions of people around the world.

The packaging may highlight which symptoms the medicine can help with, but are they as healthy as we think?

Unfortunately, there are several cold and flu medication ingredients that are not so good for us.

 6 Cold and Flu Medication Ingredients to Avoid:


  1. Acetaminophen

If you check the ingredients labels of your cold and flu medicines, you will likely find acetaminophen. Many medications include it to reduce pain and fever. However, with every dose, a small amount of acetaminophen converts to a byproduct that is toxic to the liver. This means if you take too much, or take multiple medications containing acetaminophen, it can cause liver damage. Even in safe doses, acetaminophen can damage the liver when you are dehydrated or experiencing diarrhea and vomiting. Drinking alcohol with acetaminophen can also increase risk of liver damage.


  1. Antihistamine

Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine are often used in cold and flu medication ingredients. The problem with diphenhydramine is that it has a sedative effect, causing internal activities to slow down. The FDA recently warned that taking higher than recommended doses of allergy medicine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma, or even death. The warning came after many teenagers were hospitalized or died after taking part in a ‘Benadryl Challenge’ on the social media platform Tik Tok. Always consult with your physician before taking this medication.


  1. Artificial Sweeteners

Cold and flu medicines taste far better than they used to. But that’s likely down to the sweeteners like sucralose, sorbitol, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin. In small doses, these are not usually a problem for the pancreas and liver to process. However, when sugar and sweeteners are in so many foods it becomes a constant stream of work for the body. This is where health problems like inflammation, obesity and diabetes can occur. To aid faster recovery from a cold or flu, eliminate artificial sweeteners from your medicine cabinet.


  1. Artificial colors and flavors

Even though many artificial colors have been banned by the FDA for food consumption, some of them are still approved for cosmetics and drugs, including cold and flu medication. The same synthetic dyes linked to hormone disruption, neurological disorders, allergies, and learning impairment are still being used in cold and flu medication ingredients today.  If your immune system is trying to fight a virus, you can aid recovery by avoiding any artificial ingredients.


  1. Parabens

Choosing cosmetics and products that are free from sulphates and parabens has become normal for many. However, that choice doesn’t always extend to the medicine cabinet. Many products use parabens as a preservative. You may see them listed in the ingredients as ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben or propylparaben. There is some debate over whether parabens are bad for health after studies linked them to cancer. Although the FDA has evaluated parabens as safe at the current exposure levels, this does not consider how many products we use every day containing parabens. The average household could be using around 10 products with this chemical every day. This exposure level has not been evaluated, so it is best to limit or avoid products with parabens.


  1. Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is a non-opioid derivative of morphine and a common ingredient in many non-prescription cough and cold medicines. It works with the central nervous system to stop the cough reflex. Although it does not have addictive properties like most other morphine derivatives, it has been used as a recreational drug that causes hallucination and sensory impairment. Other cold and flu medication ingredients such as acetaminophen and antihistamines can enhance the effects of this drug. Individuals who do not metabolize medications efficiently are more at risk of experiencing adverse effects and overdose from products containing Dextromethorphan.


Another thing to keep in mind with over-the-counter cold and flu medication is that although they may help to relieve symptoms, they don’t shorten recovery time.

Here are some of the best ways to recover quicker from a cold or flu:

  • Get plenty of rest. It can be tempting to take some Tylenol and carry on with your normal tasks, but this can delay recovery time. When you are resting, your body has the chance to use its energy on fighting the virus, rather than spending it on housework or other activities.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Although some recovery drinks contain hydrating electrolytes, they can also be high in sugar which can suppress the immune system and increase inflammation. Stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, or natural unsweetened juices when you are sick with a cold or flu.
  • Eat the right nutrients. Enjoying foods rich in vitamins C, D, and minerals like zinc help your body to gain strength to fight viruses. You can give it a helping hand by taking all-natural antiviral supplements containing olive leaf extract, neem leaf extract, echinacea and other immune-boosting herbs.


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