Dear cold and flu… YOU SUCK!
I think anyone who’s anyone knows that influenza is running rampant this year!
I wanted to share some words written by one of my colleagues, as I base my practice on these words, and find that many patients just want to be educated! No, this blog post doesn’t take the place of an actual physician evaluation; every patient is different.
But without education, and people who are willing to get the facts and their experiences out there, we will have no way of reaching the public regarding these important topics.
During these winter months, emergency rooms become inundated with cold and flu, stretching resources to the maximum and making it difficult for providers to care best for patients who are truly ill and dying. If you have a cold or even the real deal “influenza”, and are young and healthy, you probably don’t need to come to an ER. They will not give you antibiotics for your cold or flu- you don’t need them, they won’t help. Some symptoms can include mild sore throat, cough, congestion, mild headaches, body aches, fevers. It takes 7-10 days for your body to fight a virus, and for you to feel better (this is normal immune response time!).
Here are some medications and tips to make your cold/flu journey less miserable:
1. Aches and Pains/Fever – Tylenol (500mg every 4 hours) or Ibuprofen (600mg every 6 hours) or both!
2. Congestion – Guaifenesin (200-400mg every 4 hours) PLUS Claritin-D 12-hour (or any other antihistamine/decongestant combo. This one you get from behind the counter at the pharmacy, only take it during the day). For nighttime congestion, I suggest diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25mg and oxymetazoline (Afrin) nasal spray (only use 3 nights consecutively to prevent rebound congestion effect)
3. Cough suppression – Dextromethorphan (10-20mg every 4 hours)
There are a TON of combination preparations available with different elements of these medications, but the ones listed above are the basic staples of cold remedy and symptom control. Pharmacists at any pharmacy are happy to help if you need it or answer any questions about medication side effects and interactions with any current medications!
Also, here are some natural remedies for those that don’t like taking medications:
Nausea – ginger, peppermint oil
Congestion – Steam with a few drops of eucalyptus oil
Cough – honey (one teaspoon)
Sore Throat – gargle with salt water, drink hot water with honey/lemon/ginger
Other general advice – get rest, drink plenty of fluids, add vitamin C. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and soda while sick.
Lastly, the truth about Tamiflu: it’s an anti-viral medication that does NOT help with the ill-effects of flu. It does have potential to shorten the DURATION of the flu by about 1 day if started in the first 48 hours of symptoms. It is reserved for people at extremes of age (very old, very young), or people with serious underlying medical conditions, so as not to contribute to viral resistance.
If you call to ask about the wait time… you don’t need to be in the ER. If you say “The TV told me I needed Tamiflu”… you don’t need to be in the ER. If you start any sentence with “Dr. Oz said…”… you don’t need to be in the ER (you can’t make this stuff up!).
So please, do your best to keep the emergency room for EMERGENCIES! 🙂 Make sure you know who your primary doctor is, how to reach them, and that you CAN ask them for education on any topic, at any time (even if it takes more time than you think they have).
Here’s to hoping your cold and flu season is painless!!