Taking Care of Colds & Flu

Taking Care of Colds & Flu

Have you ever looked at the cold and flu section at your local pharmacy? It may be only one or two aisles, but the variety of preparations, liquids, pills and mists is enough to make anyone's head spin. Taking a walk down the cold and flu aisle seems like a game; you take your chances that you've chosen a product that may (or may not) give you the relief you're looking for. To make your decision a little easier, think about what symptoms are bothering you and aim to find a medication to help alleviate them. Here are some tips based on common cold and flu symptoms:

  1. Runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion: Combination products containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl, antihistamine) and phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, decongestant) may be helpful.

    Side effects: drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, headache, irritability.

    Second generation antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or fexofenadine (Allegra) should not make you sleepy.

    Topical nasal decongestants containing oxymetazoline (Afrin) may be used for no more than 2-3 days, as they may cause significant rebound nasal congestion if over-used.

  2. Sore throat: Most throat lozenges contain menthol, a pain reliever which has anesthetic properties.

    Throat sprays (such as Chloraseptic) contain phenol and may also have a numbing or pain relieving effect on your throat.

    Kitchen honey has coating properties that may alleviate throat pain. Take a spoonful, with lemon juice, or in your tea.

  3. Cough: Dextromethorphan (Delsym, Robitussin), found in many preparations of cough syrup, may help alleviate irritation and cough. Honey is also helpful for cough suppression.

    Side effects of dextromethorphan: confusion, excitement, irritability, nervousness.

    Mucinex (guaifenesin) is an expectorant that helps loosen phlegm when trying to cough.

    Side effects: dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea.

  4. Body aches and headaches: Tylenol or ibuprofen is helpful to relieve minor aches and pains associated with upper respiratory infections including headache and muscle pain. You may alternate taking them, especially if you have a fever. Take no more than 4000mg of Tylenol daily and no more than 3200mg of ibuprofen daily.
  5. Sinus pain or congestion: Neti Pots are useful in that they “power wash” your sinuses to help remove congestion. They use warm water, salt and baking soda to flush your sinus passages and relieve congestion.

In addition to these measures, make sure you are drinking plenty of clear fluids to stay well-hydrated. Adequate rest is vital to your immune system to help fight illness, so be good to yourself and get the sleep you need. You will feel better soon!

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