Capsules and tablets for relieving symptoms of colds account for a large percentage of OTC drug sales. Like the cough syrups, they are a mixed bag of different formulas and strengths. Common ingredients are antihistamines, aspirin and other pain relievers, nightshade drugs to dry up excess secretion in the nose and throat, and caffeine and phenylpropanolamine to offset the sedative effects of the other ingredients. Usually these mixtures are packaged in multicolored tablets and flashy capsules to make them look exotic and powerful. Whether they affect the course of a cold or significantly reduce the symptoms is questionable. (Even when they do suppress symptoms, they may actually prolong colds by making people less aware of their illness and less likely to take good care of themselves.) What is more certain is that OTC cold remedies can affect mood, usually in undesirable ways. Alternate methods of treating colds to avoid these problems include taking hot baths, forcing fluids, eating less, increasing rest, and decreasing stress and stimulation.
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