While shopping for over-the-counter medications, advertising shouldn't play a large factor. Consumers can usually find what they need just by looking at the ingredients in the products.
"They can advertise whatever they want," said Brad Morrison, pharmacist at Market Pharmacy in Minot. "They might have more of some ingredients, or less of another. Customers need to pay attention if it's something they need or if it's something that they can use safely."
Cough and cold medications, though packaged differently, mostly have the same ingredients whether they are brand name or generic.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Brad Morrison, pharmacist at Market Pharmacy, shows the over-the-counter selections just outside of his pharmacy.
"There's more and more (new products) all the time," Morrison said. "They have the same eight ingredients, in different dosages, with different combinations of ingredients."
"The brand name and the generic are the same drug," he said. "They are just made by a different company or processing plant. They might have some differences, such as how a cough syrup tastes."
If customers are confused about their decision, a pharmacist can help explain the ingredients in a particular product.
"Over the counter" doesn't always mean safe, either.
"People think because it's over the counter, they can take as much as they want and be safe, and that's just not true. You should follow the directions of your doctors, pharmacists, and the package," Morrison said.
Some over the counter medications could interact with prescription medications.
"People that have high blood pressure shouldn't take decongestants, at least for any period of time. It constricts blood vessels and causes a jump in blood pressure," Morrison said.
"They can take antihistamines, but they don't work quite the same," he said. "If we are uncomfortable with recommending an (over-the-counter) product to a patient, we send them to their physician."
For children, Morrison said, new guidelines recommend that children shouldn't take decongestants or aspirin, but should take cough syrup or antihistamines instead.
It's also important to pay attention to dosages.
"Usually for adults, they can go fairly well by the directions on the package," Morrison said. "For children, we have charts and graphs for dosages. That's what we're (pharmacists) here for."
When you're looking for over-the-counter products, it's important to remember you're mostly treating symptoms and not the underlying cause of an illness.
"You're not going to cure a sinus infection or pneumonia," Morrison said. "It's (OTC products) just something that make you more comfortable. Prescriptions are used to treat infection, or the underlying problem."