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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Flu Survival Kit: A Self-Care Kit for Your Home

Keep these medicines and remedies on hand in case the flu bug bites.
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Pay heed to the manufacturers' warnings about maximum doses, says Vibhuti Arya, PharmD, a resident at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Minneapolis, and a media spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association. Never take a higher dose without checking first with your doctor or pharmacist. (Higher doses than what is recommended by the manufacturer may be acceptable for a short period of time, but only with your doctor’s approval, she says.)

Cough Remedies for the Flu

What to Get: Two types of cough syrups are useful for surviving the flu: an expectorant (which contains the ingredient guaifenesin) and a suppressant (which contain the ingredient dextromethorphan).

What They Do, How to Use Them: Expectorant cough remedies should be used when you have chest congestion and are trying to cough it out, says Jonathan Arroyo, PharmD, the pharmacy manager at Texas Road Pharmacy in Manalapan, N.J., and a member of the American Pharmacists Association. When you are taking these cough syrups, be sure to drink eight glasses or more of water and other fluids a day, he says. The fluids help clear congestion.

Suppressant cough remedies are best to use when the cough is dry and you have no mucus, Arroyo says. (But if you are trying to sleep, and the cough prevents you from rest, Arroyo sometimes suggests  taking a suppressant cough syrup before bed.)

Menthol cough drops can help soothe the throat soreness. They can be used with expectorants, Arroyo says.

Nasal Sprays for Stuffy Noses

What to Get: Saline nasal sprays (nonmedicated) and oxymetazoline (medicated) nasal sprays such as Afrin or NeoSnyephrine.

What They Do, How to Use Them: Saline nasal sprays can help clear out the nose and the stuffiness that can accompany flu. "It might help you breathe better," Arroyo says.

Nasal saline sprays can be used even a couple times an hour, says Roberts, the family physician.

Medicated nasal sprays can be used by healthy adults, but Roberts advises no more than three days of use. Longer use is associated with "rebound congestion."

Decongestants for Flu Symptoms

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