New Cold Drug Might Not Be As Effective

A new law says non-prescription decongestants with the ingredient pseudoephedrine must now be kept behind store counters, and customers who want the drug must show I.D. and sign a log book.

The new precautions are in place because Congress doesn't want people using pseudoephedrine to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.

As a result, manufacturers are using phenylephrine instead of pseudoephedrine in many non-prescription oral decongestants. Yet many people are not aware of the difference between the two ingredients.

"It's not as effective in pill form as what you are used to," Ronni Sandroff, health editor of Consumer Reports magazine, told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "One of the problems is the packaging is similar on certain problems so people don't know what they are getting."

Sandroff said phenylephrine is usually safe for everyone, but people with high blood pressure or serious medical conditions should consult their doctors before taking it.

An article in the January edition of Consumer Reports article says that people should try nasal products before using oral decongestants, but need to be careful because the effectiveness of the nasal product can wear off after more than three days. In that case, switch to an oral decongestant.

She also had some tips for people who don't want to use medication, but what to alleviate cold symptoms.

  • Elevate your head. Use an extra pillow when you sleep.
  • Inhale steam from a vaporizer or while in the shower.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Chicken soup seems to fight inflammation and the cold germs.
  • Use a saline rinse.