Before cold and flu season gets into full swing, arm yourself against germs. To stave off the flu, start here: "Get a flu shot. That's the single most important thing you can do," says Aaron Glatt, MD, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y.
If a cold or flu does catch you, make sure your medicine chest is stocked with everything you need to relieve your most miserable symptoms. WebMD's experts have the goods on the must-have cold and flu remedies this sea...
Most of the time, people can manage their coughs at home by taking over-the-counter medicine and cough lozenges, removing potential allergens, or even just standing in a steamy shower, says Giselle Mosnaim, an allergist and immunologist also at Rush.
Try these five tips to manage your cough at home:
1. Stay Hydrated
An upper respiratory tract infection like a cold or flu causespostnasal drip. Extra secretions trickle down the back of your throat, irritating it and sometimes causing a cough, Mosnaim says.
Drinking fluids helps to thin out the mucus in postnasal drip, says Kenneth DeVault, MD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
Drinking liquids also helps to keep mucous membranes moist. This is particularly helpful in winter, when houses tend to be dry, another cause of cough, he says.
2. Try Lozenges and Hot Drinks
Try a menthol cough drop, Yoder suggests. “It numbs the back of the throat, and that will tend to decrease the cough reflex.”
Drinking warm tea with honey also can soothe the throat. There is some clinical evidence to support this strategy, Yoder says.
3. Take Steamy Showers, and Use a Humidifier
A hot shower can help a cough by loosening secretions in the nose. Mosnaim says this steamy strategy can help ease coughs not only from colds, but also from allergies.
Humidifiers may also help. In a dry home, nasal secretions (snot) can become dried out and uncomfortable, Mosnaim explains. Putting moisture back in the air can help your cough. But be careful not to overdo it.
“The downside is, if you don’t clean it, (humidifiers) become reservoirs for pumping out fungus and mold into the air, and bacteria,” says Robert Naclerio, MD, chief of otolaryngology at the University of Chicago.