Cold and Flu Symptoms?

Looking to ease those cold and flu symptoms, like stuffy nose and sore throat? Here’s what works—and what doesn’t.

Health Monitor Staff
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Sure, there’s no cure for the cold and flu. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ease your symptoms! Just check with your healthcare provider before trying the suggestions below.

Stuffy nose
Try this:
Saline nasal drops or sprays. These can flush out mucus and germs and are available over the counter. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a product.

Tip: Don’t like nasal sprays? Try a hot shower or steam bath with a towel over the sink. Inhaling warm, moist air helps to thin mucus.

Don’t bother with this: Nasal decongestants (unless prescribed by your healthcare provider). Found in over-the-counter cold and flu products, these medications can temporarily relieve stuffiness. But if used too long, decongestants can lead to a rebound effect, causing your symptoms to return with a vengeance when you stop the medicine.

Sore throat
Try this: Gargle with saltwater (dissolve about half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water). This can loosen mucus and wash away germs and other irritants.

Another option: Sipping on hot tea and honey can soothe throat irritation.

Don’t bother with this: Herbal remedies, high-dose vitamin C, zinc and other supplements. Although they might not hurt, there’s little proof they work. Plus, over-the-counter supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so quality can be an issue.

Try this:
Dextromethorphan (a common cough suppressant found in over-the-counter remedies). The effects are temporary, but it works for most people.

Don’t bother with this: Cough drops. Sucking on these sugar-filled drops isn’t great for your teeth. The sugar-free variety is a better option, although cough drops, which merely contain numbing agents such as menthol, can’t nix coughing as well as dextromethorphan does.

Flu-like symptoms
Try this: If it’s been less than 48 hours, ask your doctor if an antiviral medication may help (it can shorten duration of the flu if started within two days of getting sick). After that, rest and get plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.

Don’t bother with this: Asking your doctor for antibiotics. That includes using a leftover prescription or someone else’s. Antibiotics kill bacteria only, not flu and cold viruses.

Using antibiotics when you don’t need to can cause bacterial resistance—and increase your odds antibiotics won’t work when you do need them.


September 2013