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Cold and flu remedies strong medicines that should not be used as prophylactics

A child blowing their nose.
A child blowing their nose. Source: Karin Koppel

Pharmacist Karin Alamaa-Aas urged people to always consult with pharmacy staff before using remedies that contain pseudoephedrine, stressing that hot liquid cold remedies are strong medicines which should not be used in an attempt to prevent illness.

The European and Estonian medicines authorities warn that overusing drugs that contain pseudoephedrine could cause life-threatening complications in people with certain chronic conditions.

"Pseudoephedrine is used to reduce swelling of mucus membranes," Alamaa- Aas said on the "Terevisioon" morning show. "But it has side-effects, just as all other medicines do. People with heart, vascular and kidney problems should be especially careful when using such drugs. Healthy people can use pseudoephedrine-based remedies but should take care not to overdo it.

In terms of the recent warnings about pseudoephedrine, the pharmacist said that work to analyze existing drugs continues. "We often find additional effects and side-effects or realize certain additional risks after a period of time."

Alamaa-Aas said that people should consult their pharmacists before taking pseudoephedrine-based drugs, adding that it can also have very difference effects on people. The substance makes some people sleepy, while it can produce mood-altering alertness in others.

The pharmacist also warned against hot liquid flu remedies, which can contain paracetamol and pseudoephedrine both of which can be dangerous if used too frequently. "Use of such remedies is justified only if a certain condition has already developed. People have ended up in the hospital after drinking a hot flu remedy and topping it off with more paracetamol. It is not tea, but rather a strong medicine," she said.

"Hot flu remedies can be used when a person has a thoroughly blocked nose and a headache. Or in the case of a high fever and stuffy nose, but they should be left alone if the person only suspects they are coming down with something."

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Editor: Annika Remmel, Marcus Turovski

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