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.