December 21st, 2004


Cold Season is here in full force

My mom has a bad cold, so before work I drove to the closest Walgreen's to get some meds for her. 

If you have a flu or a bad cold, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT:

- go to work - don't share your bug with everyone else.  Don't think your boss will be happy with you, if half the people end up not showing to work.

- take an antibiotic - my parents are part of the generation who think sulfanilamide and ampicillin are like candy, to be taken on all occasions.  WRONG.  They will not work for a viral infection, such as a flu or a cold, only a bacterial one.  And they are toxic enough for you not to want to take them unless necessary.  And irresponsible use of antibiotics causes multi-drug resistant infections to bloom.  I've seen more than enough of them, and if you cause one more brain-breaker, such as a vanco-resistant Staph I got once, I will come after you with a platefull of Pseudomonas.

     How do you know if that's a bacterial infection?  If you have a fever and nasal discharge is colored or thick and cloudy, it's likely you might have a bacterial infection.  If the sickness lasts more than seven days, it's likely to be a bacterial infection.  If your cold was almost gone and then you suddenly started feeling worse, it's usually a bacterial infection taking over.  If you think you have a bacterial infection, go see your doctor.

    Should you see a doctor if you think you have the flu? Depends on the severity of the symptoms.  Also, if the sick person is a child, elderly or immunocompromised, they should see a doctor.

    So, what should you DO if you have a cold?

 - first of all, wash your hands (which is also an excellent recomendation for prevention of the cold/flu and a million other diseases) to limit the spread of infection in your household

-  drink a lot of fluids - while it is especially important in children, who are prone to having diarrhea when they have a flue, it is a good recommendation for everyone, even if they are not sweating.  Among other things, you are far less likely to end up with unpleasant chest congestion if you drink a lot.  Avoid sugary beverages.  Juices, tea, mineral water are much better.

- Rest, and sleep as much as you can.  Sleep does mobilize your body's immune system, which is the only resource you have to defeat the cold.

- For nasal congestion and associated headache, one can take Sudafed (warnings: don't take in high blood pressure, and other conditions listed on the box; don't exceed recommended dosage unless you are excited to learn what arrythmia feels like; it can make some people excited/unable to sleep).  Alternative is a nasal spary.  Afrin works very well, but DO NOT exceed the recommended dosage and DO NOT use for more thana three days - it is addictive (it doesn't give a buzz, but it will eventually make your nose secrete so much mucus you won't be able to breathe without it).  Saline sprays/drops work fine for milder cases.

- For chest congestion, the only over the counter oral medication now available is Mucinex.   Works for some people better than others.  Alternatives include various rubs and ointments.

- For sore throat, variety of sprays and cough drops are available to soothe it.  Taking ibuprophen or aspirin (aspirin is not recommended for anyone younger than 19, though) helps too.

- For cough, any number of syrups in a variety of combination will work.  And there are tablets, too.

- For runny nose, any of the sprays will work, and antihistamines - from Benadryl to Claritin, work for a lot of people too.

  Just ask your friendly pharmacist to help you pick a combination that will work best for your very own bouquet of symptoms.