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Over-the-counter medicines

Read the labels of all over-the-counter medicines you take. Ask your pharmacist or health care provider if they are safe for you.


Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any herbal medicines.

Caution: Many stores have their own generic brands of the below medicines. Check with your pharmacist or health care provider before using any over-the-counter and generic medicines.

The safest cough and cold medicines for you are:

  • chlorepheniramine (Chlortrimeton® or AllerChlor®)
  • guaifenesin with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM®)
  • loratadine (Claritin®).

Cough and cold medicines you should not take:

  • pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®, Actifed®, Contrex® and Nyquil®)
  • Tip

    Phenylpropanolamine has been banned. This ingredient was found in cold medicines. Please throw away any medicines that contain this ingredient.

  • phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine®)
  • ephedrine (also known as "ma huang") or any kind of appetite suppressant (such as Metabolife®).

Sodium causes your body to retain fluid. This increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder.

The following medicines are high in sodium:

  • Vicks 44® Cough Syrup, Vicks 44® Cough Relief
  • Alka-Seltzer®
  • Fleets® Phospho-Soda and Fleets® enema.

The following medicines may cause you to retain sodium and fluid:

  • ibuprofen (Nuprin®, Advil®, Motrin® and many brands)
  • ketoprofen (Orudis KT®, Actron®)
  • naproxen (Aleve®)
  • glucocorticoids: prednisone (Deltasone®) and methylprednisolone (Medrol Dose Pak®)
  • cox II inhibitors (Celebrex®).



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, third edition, ISBN 1-931876-20-7

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 07/19/2008

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts