Pharmacists' picks: Top cold, flu and allergy products

US News
U.S. News Pharmacy Picks

These pharmacist-recommended over-the-counter cold and flu products will make your next trip to the drugstore easier.

Ah, winter. The season for warm apple cider, cozy nights by the fire, feasts, family, and visits from two unwelcome guests: cold and flu.

Keep those bugs from knocking at your door by washing hands religiously, disinfecting germy surfaces like phones and keyboards, and getting a flu shot. If you do get sick, drink plenty of fluids and consider whether an over-the-counter product is right for you. But which one?

With drugstore shelves jam-packed with options, where do you begin? Top Recommended Health Products, a resource produced by U.S. News in collaboration with the industry trade magazine Pharmacy Times, may make your decision easier.

Below, you’ll see pharmacists’ top picks for cough, cold, and allergy relief. In some cases, two or more products tied for the “No. 1 Pharmacist Recommended” spot when their vote tallies came within 5 percentage points of each other.

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Best Antihistamines—Oral

For allergy sufferers, antihistamines can provide welcome relief from watery eyes, stuffy nose, and other annoying symptoms. They work to counter the effects of histamines—chemicals your immune system produces when reacting to an allergic trigger, such as pollen. Other products, such as nasal/topical decongestants and sinus products may also be helpful.

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Best Cold Remedies
Cold Remedies

We've all been there: the sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, and coughing of the common cold. When chicken noodle soup doesn't cut it, the products below may help shorten the duration of your cold when combined with lots of water and rest. Also look into homeopathic cold products.

Are you sure it's not the flu? Check out flu products, and cough, cold and flu combinations (daytime).

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Best Cough and Cold Daytime

Cough/ Cold/ Flu Combinations—Daytime

Although the flu usually hits harder and lasts longer than a cold, the two ailments cause many symptoms, including headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, and that dreaded cough. The daytime products below help you stay alert while getting relief.

Check out other cough, cold, and flu product variations, such as liquid and solid formulations.

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Cough, Cold and Flu liquid
Cough/ Cold/ Flu Combinations—Liquid Formulations

For cold and flu sufferers who prefer liquid to pills, the products below may offer relief against sore throats, stuffy noses, and other symptoms. There are many variations of cough, cold, and flu medications, including those for daytime and nighttime.

Rather swallow a pill? Try cough, cold, and flu combinations—solid formulations.

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Best Cough/ Cold/ Flu Combinations—Nighttime
Cough/ Cold/ Flu Combinations—Nighttime

The flu usually packs more punch than a cold, but they both cause many symptoms—headache, sore throat, cough, and congestion among them. The nighttime products below cause drowsiness as they fight symptoms, helping to ensure you get a good night's sleep.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Spot Gel

Cough/ Cold/ Flu Combinations—Solid Formulations

Dealing with cold or flu symptoms, but can't stomach a liquid medication? The solid cough, cold, and flu products to the right may help you feel better.

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Best cough suppressants
Cough Suppressants

Cough suppressants block—or suppress—the cough reflex. Generally, coughing is a healthy way to clear the airways of mucus, so cough suppressants should only be used for dry, hacking coughs. If you think you need to thin your mucus to more easily expel it, look into expectorants.

Best Nasal Decongestants
Decongestants—Nasal/ Topical

Stuffy nose? Decongestants may help clear you up by narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the nasal passage. Nasal/topical decongestants, like the products listed below, come in drop or spray form and are applied directly inside nostrils. Oral decongestants are another option.

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Best Flu Products

Flu Products

What hits suddenly and can lay you up for weeks with a headache, fever, and fatigue? That's right, the flu. While the flu shot is usually your best bet for preventing the flu, if you've already got the virus, these products may help you get back on your feet faster.

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