Decongestants are cold and flu medicines that help relieve sinus congestion or a clogged nose, while antihistamines are likely effective in managing drainage symptoms, such as watery eyes, postnasal drip and a runny nose, according to WebMD. Naproxen, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are good for fever and aches.
The appropriate medication to take when suffering from a cold or the flu depends on a person's symptoms, notes WebMD. While nasal decongestant sprays rapidly open breathing passages, they are not advisable for more than three days of consecutive usage to avoid aggravating congestion. Some doctors recommend a saline rinse or spray, which works slowly but does not worsen congestion after several days of use. People who take decongestants should monitor their blood pressure levels, as decongestants can increase the body's heart rate and blood pressure.
Over-the-counter flu and cold medicines typically contain varying combinations of antihistamines, decongestants, expectorants, cough suppressants and analgesics, explains WebMD. Individuals in their early 20s and children should not take aspirin. To relieve a sore throat, gargling a saltwater solution and drinking plenty of water may help.
It is important to consult a doctor before taking any medication, especially if a person experiences persistent cough, notes WebMD. In some cases, medications conceal the symptoms of a bacterial infection or strep throat, which are conditions that require antibiotic treatment.