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Cold and flu Remedy Guide

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Posted by on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 6:29
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The cold and flu season is under way, but you needn’t pay through the nose for a remedy..Instead of forking out for the best-known cold remedy brands, you could try supermarket label or generic cures and pay just a seventh of the price.

Cold and flu Remedy Guide
Cold and flu Remedy Guide

But are they really as good as the products we know and trust? Here, Your Life looks at which cough and cold cures are worth forking out for and which you can save on.


The key ingredient in chesty cough syrups is guaifenesin, which liquefies thick, hard-to-shift mucus and makes it easier to cough up.

A 150ml bottle of one of the best known brands, Benylin Chesty Coughs – Non-Drowsy contains 100mg of guaifenesin and 1.1mg of soothing levomenthol.

If you buy a bottle from Boots, it will set you back around £4.49.

But pick up the same brand product with your supermarket shopping, and you could save over 25%.

At Asda, it costs £3.40 and £3.49 at Sainsbury’s. But for a real saving, Asda’s Chesty Cough Syrup which contains the same percentage of guaifenesin, costs £2 for a 300ml bottle. Although it contains no menthol, it has the key ingredient guaifenesin.

Verdict : The most important ingredient in chesty cough medicines is guaifenesin. If your syrup contains it, you don’t always have to pay more to get the benefits.


Lozenges are like medicated boiled sweets. Sucking gets the active ingredients working where the throat hurts and the increased saliva flow also helps lubricate and soothe.

A packet of 36 Strepsils Extra with the active ingredient hexylresorcinol, which is an anaesthetic and antiseptic, will set you back £4.99 at Boots.

But if you grab them with your groceries at Asda or Sainsbury’s you save around £1. You could also try Asda’s own brand for £1.78, which contains menthol and glucose, but not hexylresorcinol, so they’ll only soothe and cool. But they may not be suitable for mums-to-be who are advised to take it with caution during pregnancy. However Tesco’s own brand, Lemon Antiseptic Lozenges, which does contain the active ingredient, costs £1.18 for 24.

Verdict: More effective throat lozenge formulations often include compounds which are topical anaesthetics and antiseptics – so if you have a really severe sore throat, it’s worth paying more or checking for added ingredients that ease the pain.


Two out of three of us took painkillers last year – but most of us bought brands we know best.

There are big savings to be had, though, if you buy equivalent drugs from your supermarket.

For example, a packet of 16, 200ml Nurofen tablets will set you back £1.99 at Boots.

Buy the same pack in the supermarket – and they are slightly cheaper. At Sainsbury’s and Asda, they cost £1.90.

However if you really want to save, then a supermarket brand like Asda, contains the same amount of the active ingredient ibuprofen at just 28p, one seventh of the price of a pack of standard Nurofen.

Verdict: If you want painkillers that taste better, work extra fast or are easier to swallow, it might be worth paying more. But if you just need a basic pain reliever then you save a packet buying supermarket own brands.


If you only have one or two cough and cold symptoms, it’s wise to treat the symptoms separately, say pharmacists. But if you’re suffering from a whole range, including aches and pains, headaches, a streaming nose and sleeplessness, a multi-symptom product may work best.

Most, like Lemsip Max All-in-One, contain paracetamol to relieve aches and pains as well as the decongestants guaifenesin and phenylephrine. For people who need to help during the day, daytime remedies may include caffeine to help beat fatigue. Products with caffeine will often be marketed as Plus, Max or Extras.

At Boots, a box of 10 sachets of Lemsip Max All-in-One costs £4.89. But the same box at the supermarket can save you 20%.

A packet at Asda will cost £4.00, £4.47 at Tesco’s and £2.47 on special offer at Sainsbury’s. Meanwhile, Asda Flu Max All in 1 contains the same ingredients as Lemsip in the same amounts: 1000mg paracetamol, 200mg guaifenesin, 12.2mg phenylephrine hydrochloride – and will only cost £1.87.

Verdict: Lemsip and supermarket own brands contain roughly the same key active ingredients – so save your pennies.


If you’re bunged up, can’t breathe or have a streaming nose, vaporisers can relieve symptoms.

They contain aromatic oils, like eucalyptus, which help open up inflamed airways.

The best know brand is Vicks VapoRub, which costs £4.39 for a 100g tub at Boots, but it’s only £4 at Asda. For an even better saving, Asda’s own version, which also contains camphor and eucalyptus, but in a slightly different formulation is just 99p.

Tesco’s own brand is £2.46. Verdict: Vapour rubs are essentially a blend of menthol vapours held in a wax base. There may be slight differences but key ingredients are the same.

Why cough up?

It doesn’t always pay to go for the product with the fancy packaging.

Bigger supermarkets cover the basics when you are suffering coughs and colds for much cheaper and Neal Patel of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says they’re just as safe.

“People often stick to the medicines they have always used because they really believe they work,” says Neal.

“But the licensing authorities, who check medicines are safe give generic medicines the same tests as branded medicines. Speak to the pharmacist at the supermarket about which are worth paying for.”

Sheila Kelly, chief executive of Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents big manufacturers, says they need the cash to invest in research.”The drug companies invest a lot of money in developing their products.”

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