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All set for Christmas, but now you're sick? What should you take to help?

Confused about over-the-counter medicines? If you’re sick what should you ask for?

OVER THE FESTIVE season it is all go as people rush around to get all the shopping and preparations done. Another common thing at Christmas time is getting ill.

The Irish Pharmacy Union are encouraging people to take the necessary steps to prevent getting a cold or the flu, particularly over Christmas. So, can you actually do anything to prevent yourself getting sick and when you are ill, what should you take to help?

Rory O’ Donnell, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union has some advice on what “ingredients” are contained in medicines that people should look out for when buying over the counter products for their ailment. Here’s what you should be taking if you have….

The flu: While what will really only get you over the flu is rest and fluids, O’Donnell said there are over the counter remedies that will help with certain symptoms you experience when you have the flu – like high temperature, aches and pains, which are listed below.

“But if you really want to avoid getting the flu, the vaccine is strongly recommend, which you can get from a pharmacist or your local GP.

A stuffy or blocked nose: Pseudoephedrine is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion. It can be got in tablets and liquid form and can help with dilated blood vessels in the nose passage. O’Donnell said while menthol inhalers are often used by people when they have a blocked up nose, he said they are not a de-congestant.

A dry cough: “There are so many different types of cough syrups out there that it can be difficult to choose the right one in the chemist. The drug that people should look for in a syrup for dry coughs is Pholcodine. This is great for a dry or scratchy cough and can really help for those that wake up with a dry cough in the middle of the night,” said O’Donnell.

Chesty cough: If you want to break up the mucus associated with a chesty cough, you should look for the ingredient Guaiphenesin or Carbocisteine on the label of the cough medicine. These are both a mucolytic that reduces the viscosity of sputum and allows people to cough it up more easily.

A runny nose and sneezing: O’Donnell recommends Antihistamines to help stop a runny nose and sneezing, stating they can also help with a dry cough too. “Loratadine is a common histamine that can be used, but people should be careful when taking any antihistamines, as some can cause drowsiness and people should be aware of this if they are driving,” said O’Donnell.

Fever, headaches and minor aches:Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are the most popular thing that people buy over the counter in pharmacists,” said O’Donnell, who said both are different.



“Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug, so it is good for pain relief, for fevers, aches, headaches, muscle pain and skeletal pain. It should be taken with food at all times. About 1 per cent of people cannot take it, and some asthmatics can have problems with it so if you are a sufferer of that condition then you should check with your doctor,” said O’Donnell.

“Paracetomol is a fairly clean medication,” he said, adding however, that people can overdose on it. “It can be very dangerous if people take too much of it. Often people can double up on it in different forms, such as having a Lemsip drink and also taking two Panadol tablets”. O’Donnell said overdosing on paracetamol can cause liver damage.

Aspirin, he said is not used as often as it used to be, but it is still a very effective form of pain relief.

One of Christmas’ most common ailment, the hangover: “The overuse of alcohol during the Christmas period can bring on a whole host of symptoms that people try and suffer through, but there are some things that can aid a recovery,” said O’Donnell.



The main cause of all the symptoms of a hangover is dehydration, explained O’Donnell, who said when you drink alcohol, your body is preoccupied with washing it out of your system.

He said the “hangover” medicines people have started taking before heading out for a night out may have some benefit as it tops up your vitamins. He recommended people drink lots of water before and in between having drinks and also after.

O’Donnell said that a medicine like Dioralyte can be a “great armoury to have in the cabinet” for after a heavy night out as it rehydrates the minerals you have lost and is full of the salts like sodium and potassium that you are lacking.

“A great thing to do when you have a hangover is get some air, get out for a walk. It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but it will help aid your recovery, more so than lying in bed,” he said.

He added:

Anyone who is feeling unwell should ask their pharmacist first for advice on the best course of action for their symptoms. Some medicines to not interact well with others, so please do check with your pharmacist.

Read: 12 people who were defeated by the 12 pubs of Christmas>

Read: Atishoo! New website maps the spread of flu across Ireland>

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