Flu Medicine: 5 Types of Pharmacy Medication

Updated in January 2022

Flu medication for the common flu, like Benadryl, Sudafed and Robitussin can be used to reduce flu-related symptoms, like headache, sore throat, runny nose or coughing.

There are medications you can purchase over-the-counter at the pharmacy that are used depending on the symptoms you are presenting with. Some examples include:

  • Anti-inflammatories: to reduce throat inflammation, like ibuprofen and diclofenac.
  • Analgesics and antipyretics: to reduce body aches, sore throat, headaches and sore ears, like acetaminophen.
  • Allergy medication: to reduce allergy-related coughing, sneezing and runny nose, like loratadine or fexofenadine.
  • Antitussive medication: to treat dry cough, like Robitussin, Triaminic and Dimetapp
  • ​Expectorant medication: to help loosen secretions, like Mucinex

In addition, the doctor can prescribe Tamiflu to prevent or fight the flu in adults and children over the age of 1, which will help to decrease symptoms. This medication does not replace the flu vaccine.

Medications for the flu should always be used as directed by the doctor. Therefore, when you have flu symptoms, like a cough or runny nose, you should consult your doctor about starting treatment.

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Generally, the doctor will indicate the use of many medications simultaneously, like an antipyretic and an expectorant, for example. Medication is typically used for at least 5 days, which is when symptoms start to improve. 

In addition to using medication to treat the flu, it is important to rest, avoid cold or smoky environments, drink 2 L (about 12 cups) of water per day, and to clear your nose with saline.

Home remedies for the flu

To treat the flu without taking medication purchased at the pharmacy, you can opt to drink lemon tea, echinacea tea, linden tea, or elderberry tea. These plants contain properties that help the body to clear the infection. Learn about other teas you can drink to treat the flu and how to prepare them.

You can also drink orange juice, cherry juice or pineapple juice. These juices are rich in vitamin C which is important to strengthen the immune system.

Treating the flu during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is important to avoid over-the-counter medication from the pharmacy, as they can affect the growth and development of the baby. Therefore, when a pregnant woman has flu symptoms, she should consult her doctor or obstetrician for treatment.

Generally, analgesics composed of acetaminophen and Vitamin C are the only medications that are safe for use during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are sick are also advised to rest, maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids,

In addition, breastfeeding women should also avoid the use of these medications, as they can pass through the breastmilk to the baby. Therefore, breastfeeding women should also consult their doctor about the most important treatment.