Check ingredients of cold medicines before taking them | Inquirer Opinion

Check ingredients of cold medicines before taking them

As the country experiences cloudy skies with rain showers this wet season, it is common for people to experience the symptoms of the common cold. This may be attributed to the fact that many of us are indoors and are therefore in close contact with one another. Since most Filipinos tend to self-medicate, it is critical that we should be aware of these medicines and how they can affect our health and how we function.When experiencing symptoms such as sneezing and stuffy nose, many of us often go to the pharmacy and ask for over-the-counter cold medicines from the pharmacist. Unbeknownst to many, these medicines are often in combination, and their individual ingredients can have unwanted effects.

A good example of this is the ingredient, chlorphenamine, an anti-allergy that can relieve runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. However, this ingredient can cause drowsiness and can compromise tasks that require alertness such as driving (especially when the roads are wet), machine operation, and studying (now that a new school year is about to start). This ingredient is found in products such as Neozep Forte and Decolgen Forte. Fortunately, these products have their nondrowsy version so it is critical to ask the pharmacist when buying one.

There is another ingredient that can pose danger—the nasal decongestant—such as phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine. These drugs are used to clear clogged air passages and nasal sinuses making breathing easier. However, these can increase high blood pressure, hence, it is recommended to consult your doctor if you have hypertension. Phenylephrine is found in Neozep while phenylpropanolamine is found in Decolgen, both in their forte and nondrowsy versions.

When the common cold is accompanied by fever and aches, one alarming practice of Filipinos is to take a separate dose of paracetamol, such as the brand Biogesic. Many are not aware that there is already a paracetamol ingredient in Neozep and Decolgen and can therefore lead to therapeutic duplication. Another similar scenario is when a person takes Alaxan for body or muscle pain, which also contains paracetamol. All these can result in drug overdose. If taken more than the recommended amount, paracetamol can harm the liver.


In addition, Neozep Forte and Bioflu are different brand names but they have the same ingredients. Taking them together can also cause an overdose.

Another problem is the use of antibiotics for the common cold. Because colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections.

Lastly, be careful when giving aspirin to children with fever. Aspirin, when given to children as treatment for viral illnesses—such as dengue, chickenpox, cold, and flu—is linked with Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening condition. Paracetamol is, instead, recommended but it requires special dosing based on the child’s age and weight.

It is recommended to consult a doctor or pharmacist when using these medicines. Most importantly, avoid purchasing them from unauthorized outlets, especially those found online or black market. Fake medicines are everywhere!

Teresa May Bandiola,
[email protected]
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TAGS: Letters to the Editor, medicines

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