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Are you sniffling, sneezing, and basically feeling awful? We've all been there. With winter comes the inevitable colds and flu, and that's just how it is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season peaks in January and February and getting a flu vaccination in September or October is the best way to arm yourself. While a shot may protect you against the actual flu, there are still plenty of other illnesses circulating in the dry, cold winter air.

Over-the-Counter Medicine.

First things first. According to WebMD, nothing actually cures a cold -- not over-the-counter medicines and not antibiotics. That said, certain cold medicines can relieve symptoms and in some cases may shorten the duration of the illness. The problem is, it's hard to predict what will work for you. Colds and flu affect each person differently and cold medicines also work differently in everyone, so you may need to try out several before settling on one.

In general, reports the Mayo Clinic, over-the-counter medicine like decongestants (Sudafed), pain relievers (Advil, Tylenol), and antihistamines (Tylenol Cold or Flu, Benadryl) can relieve cold and flu symptoms, and zinc has been proven to benefit people suffering from a cold. Some non-medical commentators favor Airborne (an herbal immune formula), zinc lozenges, vitamin C, a humidifier, and Zicam for fighting and relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Where to Get Cheap Cold Medicine.

Whichever remedy you choose, there's no need to pay full price for cold and flu relievers.

Budding extreme couponers, this one's for you: The Grocery Game advises "stacking" deals at grocery stores or drug stores to get the best price on over-the-counter medicine. For those of us who aren't practiced in the art of extreme couponing, Teri Gault, CEO of the site, explains that deal stacking means buying an item on sale and adding a coupon and other deals, such as register rewards, which can be used like cash for future purchases or for in-store rebates.

But if you aren't going to bother with all that, at the very least Gault recommends using a coupon during an ongoing sale -- not much of a challenge given that cold medicine is frequently discounted during the winter. Using coupons wisely can even beat online and warehouse club prices, Gault adds.

Here are some other tips from Gault to help you catch the best deal on cold and flu medicine:

  • Stock up when your favorite product is on sale; most cold medicine is good for two years, but double-check the expiration date to make sure it will still be good when you need it.
  • Buy generic if it's cheaper; the FDA requires that generics/store brands contain the same active ingredient/drug as the name brand.
  • Check the drug manufacturer's website for coupons.
  • If you have a coupon, use it on the smallest package when it's on sale to get the item dirt cheap, or in some cases, free.

Final Thoughts.

In addition to cold medicine, the Mayo Clinic recommends cheap/free cold and flu relievers such as plenty of water and fluids, including chicken soup, which may have anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning properties. You can also try saline nasal drops and a cheap humidifier, which adds moisture to the air that can help fight cold viruses and relieve cold and flu symptoms such as scratchy throats and stuffy noses.

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