Posted: August 2022
(4 Minute Read)
Prevention is the best medicine. Before cold and flu season rolls around, be prepared and take steps to decrease your risk of getting sick.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and others from the flu is to get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and decrease the risk of serious complications. This vaccine helps your body build up immunity to influenza viruses, making it less likely that you will get sick. It is essential to get the flu vaccine every year.
You can also help to prevent the spread of germs by washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; avoiding contact with sick people; and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
If you do get sick, limit contact with others until your symptoms improve. If you develop a fever, stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after your fever has resolved, without the use of medication, to prevent transmission.
The treatments below can help ease your symptoms as you recover.
Symptoms of cold and flu can cause your body to lose fluids and electrolytes. Stay hydrated by drinking water, juices or electrolyte-containing fluids. Warm fluids such as soup, decaffeinated tea, or warm apple juice are soothing and may decrease congestion by increasing mucus flow.
Many teas contain antioxidants, which may help to support the immune system and protect the body against infection. Some herbal teas contain ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties that can help to soothe a sore throat and calm a cough. Try green tea or one that contains turmeric or chamomile to help ease your symptoms.*
Gargling with warm salt water several times a day may sound like an old wives’ tale, but there’s actually some science to back up its efficacy. Salt has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When you gargle salt water, the mixture can kill bacteria, break up mucus, loosen congestion and ease pain.
To make a salt water gargle simply mix about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt to every 8 ounces of water. It’s best to use warm water since this may be more soothing to a sore throat than cold, and hot water can irritate your throat. Use fine-grained salt because coarse salt may scratch your throat.
Run a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air, which can help to loosen congestion and make breathing easier.
The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier is the ideal addition to your bedroom during cold and flu season. It features humidity control so you can manage the moisture levels in your space and offers whisper-quiet operation to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. The humidifier is compatible with Vicks VapoSteam Pads, which infuse the air with menthol to open the sinuses and allow you to breathe easier. Be sure to change the water daily, and clean the unit per manufacturer instructions.
When you are sick, your body needs time to rest and heal. Getting enough sleep and taking breaks during the day can help with your recovery. Rest is one of the most underrated cold and flu remedies.
Acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen can help to reduce fever and pain, while a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine can help to clear congestion. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, brompheniramine, doxylamine, clemastine, loratadine, cetirizine, levocetirizine or fexofenadine can also be effective as a cold remedy for symptoms like runny nose and sneezing.
For a productive cough, one that brings up phlegm, look for a product with guaifenesin. It is an expectorant that helps break up mucus in the airways, decreasing congestion. If you have a dry, hacking cough, try dextromethorphan which is a cough suppressant. There are combination products available to address both cough and chest congestion.
When selecting a product, always review the label to determine if the medication is appropriate for you. OTC medications can interact with other medications and/or medical conditions. Watch for duplicate ingredients in multi-symptom products, to avoid taking too much medication. Always consult with a healthcare professional before adding any medication to your current drug therapy, and ask your Rite Aid pharmacist for help with product selection.
If you have a high fever, are experiencing difficulty breathing or have chest pain, these could be signs of pneumonia and you should seek medical attention immediately. Other warning signs include shaking or convulsing, extreme weakness, lethargy or persistent vomiting.
If you see any of these signs in yourself or your child, call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. While most colds and cases of the flu will resolve without medical intervention, it is important to be aware of severe symptoms that warrant professional care.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.