Now is the time to stock your medicine cabinet, get your flu shot, and brush up on the best ways to avoid cold and flu germs…
If you get a cold or flu this year, you may have your dirty hands to thank. Many viruses are spread that way. You pick up germs on your fingers and then get them in your mouth or eyes.
The solution: Wash your hands with soap often and well. It’s a key way to prevent a cold or flu.
Get Your Flu Shot
You may think of the flu as a minor problem, but it can be severe, sidelining you for days. It can even be dangerous, especially for young children, older adults, and pregnant women. One little vaccine may save you and your family a lot of misery. It’s a myth that a flu shot can give you the flu.
Be Prepared for Cold Season
Before you battle cold and flu germs, make sure you have the supplies you need. Stock your medicine cabinet with any medicines you use, like pain relievers or decongestants. Don’t forget tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer. Make sure your thermometer still works. At the supermarket, load up on fluids, herbal tea, and simple comfort foods like chicken soup for when you’re sick.
Pay Attention to Symptoms
Cold or flu? There’s no surefire way to tell the symptoms apart. Even your doctor may not be sure. Usually, colds are milder. You might have a runny or stuffy nose.
The flu is usually more severe and comes on suddenly — probably knocking you off your feet for a few days. Fever, body aches, and exhaustion are more common with the flu.
Get the Right Medications
There are lots of cold and flu remedies to choose from at the drugstore. Be smart about the ones you use. Combination medications that package several meds in one pill — like a decongestant, cough suppressant, and a painkiller — can be a convenient way to combat symptoms. Choose a medicine that treats your specific complaint; don’t treat a problem you don’t have. And don’t take more than one medicine with the same ingredient. Read labels and choose only the medications that will help.
Skip the Antibiotics
Colds and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics will not help. They work only with bacterial infections. What’s more, using antibiotics when you don’t need them increases the risk of breeding dangerous germs that are resistant to drugs.
If You’re Sick, Stay Home
It may not be easy to take a sick day. But if you have a cold or flu, you should. If you push yourself when you’re sick and work instead of rest, your body may have a harder time fighting off the virus. Your cold could last longer. You could also spread the virus to other people. So when you’re sick, stay home, rest, and recover. It’s better for you and everyone around you.
Use Throwaways to Curb Germs
When someone in your family is sick, switch to disposable products in your bathroom until they get better. Swap your cloth hand towel for paper and your bathroom cups for paper or plastic. It’s a simple way to stop the spread of germs among family members.
Looking for natural ways to beat back your flu or cold symptoms? Try a spoonful of honey. It may help soothe a cough as well as as drugstore cough syrup. Don’t give honey to kids under age 1 – it’s not safe for them. Some vitamins and herbs have shown promise as a treatment for cold symptoms, such as a combo of andrographis and Siberian ginseng. Echinacea and high doses of vitamin C may also help shorten cold symptoms. Elderberry may shorten flu symptoms.
Drink Extra Fluids
Drinking extra fluids when you’re sick will help thin mucus, drain your sinuses and relieve a stuffy nose. Water, broth, and sports drinks are good choices. Alcohol isn’t. Hot drinks — like herbal tea — will also warm your airways, helping relieve congestion.
If your sick kids aren’t drinking enough, offer them Popsicles. Or let them drink fluids with a spoon or a straw. Try different ways to coax them.
Ask About Flu Medicine
No drugs can cure the flu, but some may help you get better faster. Prescription antiviral drugs can blunt the symptoms and help you recover. The catch: You need to start taking them within 48 hours of your first symptoms. Talk to your doctor to find out more. One of these medicines may be right for you if you’re at high risk of having complications from flu.
(Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD)
Got a sore throat? Wonder if your painful sore throat is from a cold, strep throat, or tonsillitis? A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold. However, a sore throat from a cold often gets better or goes away after the first day or two. Other cold symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion may follow the sore throat. Strep throat, which is an infection due to streptococcus bacteria, is another cause of sore throats and tonsillitis. With strep throat, the sore throat is often more severe and persists. Tonsillitis is a painful inflammation or infection of the tonsils, the tissue masses located at the back of the throat.
Is a Sore Throat With a Cold Caused by Viruses or Bacteria?
Sore throats can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The most common causes of sore throats are viruses. Viral sore throats are often accompanied by other cold symptoms that may include a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes, and sneezing. Other causes of sore throat include smoking, pollution or irritants in the air, allergies, and dry air.
Along With a Sore Throat, What are Other Cold Symptoms?
In addition to a sore throat, other common cold symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Mild headache
- Mild body aches
How Are Sore Throats With Colds Treated?
Although there is no cure for a sore throat caused by a cold virus, there are ways to help you feel more comfortable. Drinking warm liquids, gargling with warm salt water, sucking on ice chips, or taking an over-the-counter medicine may relieve symptoms of pain or fever. When you are sick with a cold, it is also important to get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of fluids.
Can Medications Relieve Symptoms of a Sore Throat With a Cold?
Over-the-counter cold medications may relieve cold and sore throat symptoms. However, the benefits of these drugs are minimal. Some cold medications include:
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen and naproxen, to relieve the aches and pains of a cold and sore throat. (Aspirin should not be given to children because of its link to Reye’s syndrome, a disorder that can cause brain damage and death.)
- Sore throat sprays and lozenges to soothe your throat and numb the throat pain temporarily. (Lozenges should not be given to young children)
- Decongestant nasal sprays to relieve a sore throat caused by postnasal drip — nasal drainage that runs down your throat. (Be sure to stop using nasal decongestant sprays after three days, or you may have an increase in congestion when you stop them.)
- Antibiotics should not be used to treat a cold virus and sore throat. Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria. They will not work on sore throats associated with colds, which are caused by viruses.
(Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD)