When it comes to buying health products, it can get pretty overwhelming.
Pharmacy shelves and websites are often filled with hundreds of well-marketed items in bright, aesthetically pleasing packaging.
This can often make it difficult to figure out what your money is actually worth.
Pharmacists Angela Dori from the US and Mike Hewitson and Thorrun Govind from the UK have figured out which products are a waste of your hard-earned money and what you should buy instead.
1. Avoid: cough medicine
There’s little evidence that cough syrup works well, Angela said.
In fact, many studies show that it is no more effective than a placebo.
In a video shared on TikTok, the California pharmacist said, “Use lemon and honey instead to relieve cough.”
According to the NHS, the sweet concoction won’t cure a sore throat but may relieve some of the symptoms (for a fraction of the price).
The drink could cost you as little as £1.30.
A 340g bottle of clear honey from Aldi Daily Essentials is just 75p and a four-pack of lemons from Budget Supermarket is 55p.
Meanwhile, cough medicines at Boots can range from £11 (BronchoStop Cough Syrup – 240ml) to £1.99 (Boots Glycerin and Blackcurrant Linctus – 200ml).
Instead: hot water, honey and lemon
2. Avoid: brand name drugs
There is a big misconception that when it comes to drugs, expensive is better.
Mike Hewitson, a Somerset-based pharmacist, disagrees.
He said: “I generally advise people to use unbranded products, which are often just as effective as the branded ones but cheaper.”
“With the cost of living crisis, I think that’s something people should know.”
TV pharmacist Thorrun Govind suggested people switch the following medications to save some money on their drug store wallets.
Swap Gaviscon Double Action Mint Flavored Heartburn & Indigestion Liquid (300ml) for Sainsbury’s Heartburn & Indigestion Liquid (500ml) which costs £9.75 and £6 respectively.
And if you’ve got a cold, instead of £5 Lemsip Cold & Flu Max sachets for £3, opt for Tesco’s own brand Cold & Flu £3 sachets.
Instead: generic medicines
3. Avoid: cold sore creams
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of dread you feel when you know a cold sore is lurking just under your skin.
It’s painful, irritating, and you know exactly how obvious it’s going to look when it erupts.
But according to Angela, there is no point in rushing to the nearest pharmacy to buy a preventive cream.
“All creams shorten the lifespan of the cold sore by a day,” she explained.
However, studies have shown that they can reduce the severity of symptoms somewhat – so if you’re in pain, it may still be worth treating.
In order for them to work, they must be applied to the affected area every two to three hours during the day.
The NHS recommends taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.
4. Avoid: intimate tissues
So-called feminine hygiene products – which include various types of sanitary towels – are popular with women around the world.
But Angela opined that these practical things can be very unhealthy – making them a complete waste of money.
“They contain preservatives and fragrances that can be harmful [vulva] itching,” she said.
Despite the plethora of feminine hygiene products now available, the female genital area doesn’t need such bells and whistles to stay clean.
According to the NHS, the vagina is “designed to keep itself clean using natural secretions (discharge).”
A study found that the sanitary towels are also associated with a two-fold risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The US pharmacist said that in most cases, the best way to clean the vulva is with just water—soap isn’t necessary.
If you do want to use a product, the NHS recommends using plain, unscented soaps or an emollient.