When the weather starts to cool down and you have to layer up, seasonal cold and flu season are just around the corner. How can you protect yourself when so many people seem to be coughing and sneezing? How can you avoid getting the flu (influenza)? You probably cannot avoid people entirely, so it is possible you may catch one of these conditions during the ‘season’.
The common cold, including chest cold, head cold and even seasonal flu, is caused by viruses. Over the counter cold medications can help with your cold symptoms, which typically include sore throat, runny nose, cough and congestion. Flu symptoms are similar, but include fever, headache, and muscle soreness. You can partially protect yourself from flu by getting the annual flu vaccine, and by being consistent about washing your hands thoroughly several times per day. Even if you do all these things, you may come down with a cold, a cough or the flu.
If you do come down with a cold, cough or flu, there are a number of steps you can take to help you feel better, even though you may feel miserable. Most cold and flu remedies help ease the symptoms, but they don’t attack the viruses that cause the illness. There is no one right way to treat a cold or the flu. But there are some remedies that can help you feel better.
If you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant might help your symptoms. If you have postnasal drip or watery, itchy eyes – then an antihistamine might help you. A note of caution is helpful here as antihistamines may make you drowsy and they might thicken the mucus, which can be a problem for people with asthma. Decongestants may help with congestion but they also might make you hyper or keep you from sleeping. Either of these drugs may not be advised if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. You should contact your physician in those cases.
Nasal sprays are helpful when you have a stuffed nose. But caution is important here, as if you use a nasal spray more than 3 days you may become even stuffier than when you started.
Ask your pharmacist which cough medicine might be the best for you. There are so many formulations on the market that it might be difficult to decide which is best for you. If your cough medicine also contains a pain medicine be careful not to take a separate pain medicine. Read all the labels of all the medicines you are taking to avoid taking too much of any medicine.
Drink lots of fluids and gargle with salt water for sore throat relief, but don’t gargle for more than three days.
Believe it or not, the symptoms currently making you miserable are part of the natural healing process. Even a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill off the virus. It’s evidence that your immune system is working to clear the infection from your blood as a hot environment may help kill the viruses making you sick. Coughing helps clear your breathing passages, and blowing your nose is helpful as well. Try not to sniff the mucus back into your head! The best way to blow your nose is to press a finger over one nostril and blow gently to clear the other nostril. A warm salt water rinse for your nose may also be helpful. Ask your pharmacist for directions. Lastly, stay warm and rested. That lets your body direct it resources to your immune system so you can get better, faster!