The season of cold and flu— what exactly can you do?

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Colds are inevitable in the winter season, affecting many in the community. We have all experienced the symptoms, which often start with a dry (raspy and sore) throat, leading on to other symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose and headache.
The common cold lasts for a few days — around five to seven — and there is no cure.
The nasal passages and throat get infected by viruses that keep changing every year, so it is hard to develop a cure. Your own immune system is your best defence. Recovery is helped by resting in bed, drinking plenty of fluids, water is best and not smoking (this is a good time to quit).
Colds are not serious for healthy people. People often, mistakenly, think antibiotics will treat a cold. Antibiotics won’t because they don’t work on viruses, which is what is causing the cold. Antibiotics will be useful for a cold only if you develop a secondary bacterial infection — like a chest or sinus infection. So when you have a cold, don’t go to the doctor expecting to get a prescription for antibiotics.
People often refer to a cold as the flu (influenza). While it is caused by viruses and, like the common cold, spread by coughing and sneezing, the flu is a much more serious and severe infection.
The flu comes on very quickly and often will be accompanied by very sore and achy muscles, and a high fever. It also tends to last longer than a cold (about one to three weeks).
Flu vaccinations are the way to guard against getting the flu, but you need a new vaccination each year because the viruses keep changing. Accredited pharmacists are now able to administer the flu vaccine in the pharmacy.
Although medicines can’t cure the common cold they can help relieve symptoms, especially when you are feeling miserable and having trouble sleeping at night. Self Care pharmacists can help you choose the right medicine for your symptoms. Lozenges or gargles are available for sore throats; decongestant tablets, nose drops, nasal sprays or steam inhalations can help a blocked nose; particular antihistamines can relieve a streaming nose associated with a head cold; and paracetamol and ibuprofen reduce fever and relieve headache. Cough suppressants can help dull a dry, irritating cough. Other cough medicines can help loosen phlegm.
A very important warning — do not give cough and cold medicines to children under 6 years of age. Current research shows they aren’t always effective, and can cause harm.
Copy: Pharmacy Self Care, Pharmaceutical Society of NZ Inc