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Preventing Cold & Flu: How Doctors Keep Germs at Bay

Doctors give their top tips for avoiding nasty cold and flu germs.

Over-the-counter medications for colds and flus

Our docs agree: When they’re feeling really awful, they turn to over-the-counter pain relievers. “The thing that I take most regularly is Tylenol, aspirin, or Advil,” Schachter says. “It’s that sick feeling -- that achy, blah feeling you have when you get sick -- that really bothers me.”

While cold and flu remedies can ease the most severe symptoms, many doctors say they avoid overmedicating themselves. “I don’t like the feeling of taking a lot of medication, where my head feels fuzzy,” Hughes says.

When she feels sick enough to need a cold remedy, Bothwell buys them individually, taking acetaminophen for a fever and a cough suppressant for a cough, instead of a multisymptom cold and flu medication. Bothwell also chooses generics over the brand-name varieties. “One of my pet peeves is spending so much money on these cold preparations,” she says. “Sometimes those combination drugs give you a lot more medicine than you need, and they’re more expensive.”

Because doctors can’t afford to use sick days, staying healthy is essential. “I think I’ve taken two or three days in the last 10 to 15 years,” says Schachter. “With the kind of job I have, it’s hard for me to stay home.”


Bottom line

Prevention is the key. Our experts all say a flu shot is essential and they advise staying in the best possible health year-round. “Do the basics -- eat right, sleep right, exercise, and wash your hands,” Richter says. “I work in a pretty high-risk profession, and I rarely get sick because I do those things.”

Reviewed on October 05, 2009

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