COLD AND FLU
Traditional advice to sufferers of the common cold is to take some aspirin or paracetamol, keep warm, and drink plenty of fluids. This is generally sound advice in that the best approach is to provide symptomatic relief. There are also many products marketed for symptom relief. Note: Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age.
Fluid Intake and Steam Inhalations
A high fluid intake maintains adequate hydration of the body to counteract excessive fluid loss caused by fever. Steam inhalations provide local hydration to the air passages and might also work by diluting the secretions of mucus, making them easier to expel. These remedies are based on folklore and anecdotes but are harmless and might help together with pharmacy remedies.
Decongestants, Nasal Sprays and Drops
Oral decongestants are effective in reducing inflammation of the lining of the nose which results having a blocked nose. These remedies are known to elevate blood pressure and therefore should be avoided in patients suffering from hypertension and in patients with ischemic heart disease. Patients with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) should also not take these over the counter products. In some patients unable to use oral decongestants, antihistamines might provide some relief.
Nasal decongestants provide rapid, effective relief from nasal congestion, and claim to have duration of approximately 8 hours. These have relatively few side effects as they tend to work locally. The main issue with these products is a phenomenon known as rebound congestion, where the decongestive effect is followed by congestion caused by the product itself. This is easily avoided by reducing usage to no more than 7 days.
Vitamin C and Zinc
The benefits of Vit C are controversial, studies suggest that doses of about 3g per day are necessary to prevent the onset of the cold and that even up to 1or 2g per hour are required to suppress the symptoms when they appear. Zinc lozenges have been shown to have a beneficial effect, but it is unclear if tablets containing zinc are of any help in combating the common cold.
- The benefits of Garlic, Echinacea and Vit E are unknown, but there is little evidence of their effectiveness.
- When to see your GP
- Thick mucus for several days
- Sinus or ear pain that does not resolve after 7 days
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wheezing, especially in young children
- Malaise in teenagers and young adults for more than 7 days
- Severe symptoms that do not improve within 7 days