It is still early to be concerned about the cold and flu season. But now is a good time to prepare and stay healthy over the winter months. Pharmacists hear endless stories about personal maladies. We are sort of like bartenders, only we hear stories about phlegm, sniffles and hacks. Our recommendations are well rehearsed: lots of rest, plenty of fluids and some choices from the vast selection in the cough and cold product aisle. I receive many questions concerning the complementary therapies for colds and flus: "Do these things really work?" and "Are they safe?" Many are effective and just as many can be harmful.
The best treatment for colds and flus is rest. Other options include:
- Eat healthy, and drink plenty of fluids. Warm fluids, like tea or chicken soups, may help relieve congestion.
- Gargle with salt water to help a sore throat.
- Take acetaminophen to help relieve the aches and fever.
- Humidify the bedroom or take hot showers to relieve a stuffy nose. You could also try using a saline nasal spray to clear your nose.
- Avoid decongestant nose sprays. Sometimes these products can cause a ‘rebound’ stuffiness, which can be worse than the before. Ask your Heart Pharmacy Pharmacist for more information.
- Rest is best. This will not only allow you time to get better, but it will also help avoid exposing others to your cold.
Should you get vaccinated against influenza? It is recommended that people get a yearly influenza vaccination if: they are over 65, have a chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, or work/live with these individuals. Heart Pharmacies conduct in-store influenza vaccination clinics for the general public. Ask your Heart Pharmacist for more information about influenza vaccinations or in-store clinics.
What about vitamin C? If you are a fan of Linus Pauling like I am, you are most likely taking extra vitamin C. Does it really work? I was surprised to learn that there is no evidence that taking extra vitamin C during an acute cold will reduce symptoms or severity. There is slight evidence that regular supplementation of at least 200mg of vitamin C can reduce cold duration of 8% in adults and 13.6% in children.
Zinc lozenges are also a popular treatment for colds and flus. When taken every two hours, they can reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. These lozenges shouldn't be taken continuously for more than one week.|
What about prevention? I know there are some people who always seem to catch every bug that is going around. There are two proven supplements to help prevent colds and flus: zinc and Cold-Fx. A recent study followed people who took 45mg of zinc (gluconate) or a placebo for 1 year. Only 7 people in the zinc group while 35 people in the placebo group experienced an infection that year. To date, the largest study followed 323 people who took Cold-Fx over four months. People who took Cold-Fx noticed a 25% reduction in the number of colds over the four month cold and flu season.
Whenever you feel your throat getting sore, relax and take care of yourself. Don’t forget to drink lots of water; the most under-appreciated cold remedy. The extra water will help to loosen phlegm and allow you to clear it easier. Cold symptoms are an indication that our body is under attack and we should allow our bodies time to heal. Don't forget to wash your hands frequently to prevent spreading your cold to others.