Respiratory illnesses like Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Flu, and COVID-19 are hitting Americans hard this season. The triple threat has led to shortages of both essential and over-the-counter medication and increased concerns as we head into the holiday season.

According to new CivicScience data from nearly 3,000 respondents, those concerns have unfortunately become a reality for 10% of Americans who say they’ve felt the impacts of the medicine shortages within their household. An additional one-fifth (20%) report they know somebody outside their households who’s felt the effects of shortages.

Shopping for cold and flu medicine amid a highly active season of illness:

In what may be a small glimmer of hope for easing prices, name-brands, which are typically the pricier option, hold the edge over generic store brands among U.S. adults. However, Gen Z adults are more likely to prefer a store brand over name-brand, likely a proxy for income. Margins between name and store brands rise significantly with income. For those making more than $125K, name brands have a 22 percentage-point advantage over store brands—a stark difference in under $35K-$75k earners where there is only a separation of two-percentage-points. 

Name brands (if they’re in stock) are preferred, but which specific brands are people looking for?

CivicScience polling finds 31% of Americans have had to shop for cold or flu medicine at some point  in the past month. Of those, one-third (35%) chose Vick’s products DayQuil or NyQuil. One-quarter lean toward Mucinex (24%), more than double that of Theraflu shoppers (11%). 

Filtering the data by age, gender and income doesn’t change the picture much; DayQuil/NyQuil stay ahead within all three of the major demographic breakdowns. 

Other insights from the data:

  • People who attend sporting events regularly are more likely to pick Theraflu as their brand of choice.
  • People who regularly dine at upscale restaurants are more likely to have had to shop for cold/flu medicine in the past month.
  • Women are more likely to prefer Mucinex than men, and men are more likely to prefer NyQuil/DayQuil than women.

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