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Cold and Flu - Symptoms, Treatments and Preventions
Published: 24th November, 2016 in: Cough, Cold and Flu
Treat yourself better with pharmacist advice.
NHS frontline services, at this time of year, face extreme pressures from those seeking treatment for winter ailments. We can all do our bit by choosing the most appropriate source of support. We shouldn’t underestimate the important role of self-care. Weldricks Pharmacy offers a wide range of cold and flu relief medicines to ensure you can enjoy the ‘most wonderful time of the year’.
Having flu can be very different to having a cold. Although the symptoms are mostly the same, they are caused by different viruses and flu symptoms are often more severe. It is common for people to say they have flu when in fact it is just a cold; the chances are if they had flu they would not be stood there to tell you... they would be in bed!
Symptoms of a cold:
- runny nose, beginning with clear mucus that develops into thicker, green mucus as the cold progresses
- blocked nose
- sore throat
- People with a cold may also suffer with a mild fever, earache, tiredness and headache.
Symptoms develop over one or two days and gradually get better after a few days. Some colds can last for up to two weeks.
- sudden fever – a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
- dry, chesty cough
- aching muscles
- limb or joint pain
- diarrhoea or upset stomach
- sore throat
- runny or blocked nose
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping
Flu symptoms usually come on much quicker than cold symptoms and usually peak after two to three days, you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. However, you may have a lingering cough and still feel very tired for a further two to three weeks.
You should seek medical advice for cold or flu if you have a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or if you have a very high temperature as well as an unusually severe headache/abdominal/chest pain.
If you are generally fit and healthy you should manage the symptoms of a cold or flu without the need to see a doctor. There are many different medicines available over the counter to relief the symptoms of cold and flu, the type of treatment you need will depend on your symptoms.
- Painkillers: Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin can help to reduce a fever. They also act as painkillers but aspirin cannot be given to anyone under the age of 16.
- Decongestants: You can use oral decongestants like Sudafed, or a nasal spray such as Otrivine. They work by reducing the swelling in the nasal passages and they may also help to ease breathing. People with high blood pressure shouldn’t use oral decongestants as it can raise blood pressure.
- Cough remedies: Expectorants such as Veno’s Cough Mixture help to break down phlegm making it easier to cough up. Suppressants such as Benylin Dry Cough are used to treat dry, non-productive coughs and are useful to treat coughs that are irritating, tickly or dry.
- Sore throats: Sore throat symptoms can be relieved by drinking plenty of fluids to help lubricate the throat to make swallowing and talking easier. Ultra Chloraseptic is and effective spray that works by numbing the throat pain. Vocalzone is also an effective sore throat relief, which Tom Jones says “I want the word to get out that Vocalzone are the best throat pastilles in the world”
For more general symptoms you could try Potter’s Pastilles or Buttercup syrup, which contain ingredients that help soothe some of the more irritating symptoms of a cold.
Non drug treatments
As well as medication, non drug treatment can be beneficial too including:
- Steam inhalation: Mucus can be cleared by putting a towel over your head and holding your head above a bowl of hot water. If you breathe deeply (avoid steam getting into the eyes) then the mucus should clear making it easier to blow your nose. Eucalyptus Oil can be added to hot water too and the vapour inhaled through the nose for added relief. Steam inhalation is not advisable for children due to the risk of scalding. Instead, a child may benefit from sitting in a hot, steamy bathroom.
- Gargling: Gargling with salt water can sometimes help to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat and nasal congestion.
- Vapour rubs: Menthol containing products such as Vicks Vaporub can help to soothe the symptoms of nasal catarrh, sore throats, congestion and coughs due to colds. They can also be useful for babies and young children. Apply the rub to your child’s chest and back, but don’t apply it to their nostrils because this could cause pain and breathing difficulties.
Antibiotics Don’t Work
All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses so there is no point in asking a GP for them. If anything, antibiotics may cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and diarrhoea. Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic and can become ‘antibiotic resistant’ so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics. So unnecessary use of antibiotics such as attempting to treat a cold will only help to increase antibiotic resistance.
How to prevent spreading cold and flu
- sneezing or coughing into a tissue
- throwing the tissue away
- washing your hands
- getting the flu jab if you’re eligible. For more information see http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx
- some pharmacies also offer the flu jab, both the free NHS jab and private flu jabs which would have to be paid for