Cold Medicine: FSA Eligibility

Cold Medicine: eligible with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
Cold medicine is an eligible over-the-counter (OTC) drug with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Cold medicine reimbursement is not eligible with a limited-purpose flexible spending account (LPFSA) or a dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA).

FSA Eligible Cold Medicine

What is the common cold?

The common cold is one of 100 or more viruses present year-round that can cause a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, which causes discomfort in the nose and throat with nasal congestion, cough, sneezing, and other symptoms that can vary greatly depending on the severity of the illness. Children are at an increased risk of colds throughout the year, but adults can also contract 2-3 colds annually as well. In most cases, with rest, proper hydration and the assistance of cold medicine, common cold symptoms will clear in 1-2 weeks (Mayo Clinic).

What is cold medicine?

The common cold is a virus, which means that OTC cold medicines are designed to manage the symptoms of the illness rather than directly attacking the virus itself. Doctors suggest rest and liquids (water, juice, clear broth, water with lemon, tea with honey) as the primary means to treat the common cold, but cold medicines can also prove invaluable in helping individuals cope with their most difficult common cold symptoms. These medications include via WebMD:

  • Cough Medicine: There are three primary OTC medicine types that are designed to alleviate coughing caused by common colds, including expectorants, suppressants and topical ointments. First, expectorants like guaifenesin are medicines that are designed to thin mucous in the nasal passageways, which makes it easier to breathe and can reduce sinus pressure. Suppressants are different in that they are designed to block the body's cough reflex, which typically uses the active ingredient dextromethorphan, but it is not effective in treating cough symptoms caused by mucous buildup. Lastly, topical ointments and chest rubs are made with camphor and menthol, the vapors of which could soothe and clear nasal passageways. These cough medicines can be found in many forms, including cough syrup, lozenges, pills and tablets.
  • Combination Medicines: In some cases, cold sufferers could be experiencing a wide range of potential symptoms, and combination medicines can help account for this diversity of discomfort. For instance, some cough syrups may combine a suppressant and an expectorant to alleviate a nasty cough. Additionally, active ingredients like antihistamines, decongestants and pain reliever have been known to be included in cold medicine to treat a large selection of symptoms.
  • Cold Relief Nasal Sprays: There are three primary types of nasal sprays that could provide some relief for cold sufferers, including decongestants, salt-water (saline) solutions and steroid nasal sprays. Decongestant sprays fight nasal congestion by narrowing blood vessels in the lining of the nose, which provides relief from inflammation and shrinks swollen tissues. Saltwater solutions do not contain any medication, but can be helpful in loosening mucous in the nasal passages so it can be expelled normally. Finally, steroid nasal sprays are available as OTC or prescription products and reduce swelling and mucous buildup in the nasal passageways, and they are extremely effective in treating allergic rhinitis, sinus infection and common cold symptoms.