Know what to do for your cold or flu this season

From Staff Reports

  As flu and cold season approaches, there are a lot of unanswered questions on how to treat scratchy throats, itchy watery eyes and runny noses. Dave Krishna, an online pharmacist, helps simplify those questions.
  Are there any over-the-counter treatments for the flu?
  The flu is a viral infection caused by either of two types of influenza viruses, A or B. Symptoms can be severe and may include fever, headache, muscle pain, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, weakness and fatigue. Flu outbreaks occur most often during the winter months and symptoms usually last for about a week. The flu can lead to dangerous complications -- such as bronchitis or pneumonia -- especially in the elderly or those with serious pre-existing illnesses.
  Over-the-counter medications are the most common treatment for the flu. They don't kill the virus, but can help ease flu symptoms. You can choose from a large array of products.
  Many products have multiple ingredients to treat multiple symptoms. These so-called "shotgun remedies" are fine if you have all of the symptoms listed on the product. But if you have only one or two, these products provide unnecessary medications that won't help you and may increase the risk of side effects.
  Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), ketoprofen (Orudis), or naproxen (Aleve) can be used to reduce fever, sore throat, and aches and pains. Cough drops are also useful for sore throats.
  For a dry, hacking cough, try a cough suppressant that contains dextromethorphan. Examples include Robitussin DM and Benylin.
  To relieve runny nose, sneezing, and watery and itchy eyes, try an antihistamine such as Benadryl.
  Whenever I get a cold, I feel miserable with runny nose, sore throat, and coughing symptoms. What can I take to deal with all of them?
  Colds can cause fever, headache, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and coughing. If you are suffering from several of these symptoms, it may be more convenient to use a multi-symptom cold product (Contac, Dristan, Tylenol Cold, Vicks) that combines the ingredients you need. Avoid unnecessary side effects by choosing a product with active ingredients only for your specific symptoms:
  For a stuffy nose, choose a product that contains a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine.
  For a runny nose, try a product that contains an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, or clemastine, or the non-sedating antihistamine loratidine (Claritin). For a wet cough, choose a product with the expectorant guaifenesin. For a dry cough, choose a product with the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. For fever, sore throat, or aches, choose a product that contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
  Some liquid forms of multi-symptom cold products contain large quantities of alcohol. Alcohol can disturb your sleep and does nothing to relieve cold symptoms. Read the product label to find out how much alcohol a product contains.
  If you have medical conditions such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, or an enlarged prostate, you may need to avoid antihistamines and decongestants. Some medicines are formulated especially for people with high blood pressure (Coricidin HBP). Read product labels carefully and talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.