Cold or Flu?
Your survival guide for the sniffly, sneezy, achy, queasy season.
Is It a Cold or the Flu?
||Sometimes, usually mild
||Usual; high (100-102 F; occasionally higher,
especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
|General Aches, Pains
||Usual; often severe
||Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
||Usual; at the beginning of the illness
|Chest Discomfort, Cough
||Mild to moderate; hacking cough
||Common; can become severe
|Sinus congestion; middle ear infection
||Bronchitis; pneumonia; can be
|Wash your hands often; avoid close contact
with anyone with a cold
||Annual vaccination; antiviral medicine - see
||All listed at left; plus antiviral drugs -
see your doctor
Your Medicine Cabinet
Which over-the-counter products are right for you? That depends on your
symptoms. Read the labels and look for ingredients that will best ease your
discomfort. Important: Talk with your doctor about possible drug interactions
if you're taking prescription medications for blood pressure, a heart-related
condition, or diabetes.
Relieving Pain and Fever
Avoid multisymptom products. Instead, pick one that matches your specific
symptoms. For fever, aches and pains, sinus pressure, and sore throat, look for
cold remedies with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil
or Motrin)-but remember, doctors no longer believe in suppressing low-grade
fever (less than 101.5 F) except in very young and very old people, or in
people with heart or lung disease. Kids (18 and younger) should never take
aspirin because of the possibility of Reye's syndrome.
If your nose or sinuses are congested, then you may need a decongestant such as
pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). Decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking
swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through.
Decongestant nasal sprays containing phenyl-ephrine (such as Neo-Synephrine)
are effective for opening nasal passages. But using medicated nasal sprays for
more than three days in a row can cause a "rebound effect"-you may end
up more congested than you were at the start. Saline sprays and saline nose
drops are not decongestants but help keep nasal tissues moist so the tissues
can filter air. They can be used as often as needed.