Flu Treatment

Need help deciding which treatments are effective for the flu? Wonder how you can manage the flu? There are treatments that can help relieve common flu symptoms such as fever, aches, and cough, and may shorten the time you have flu symptoms. Keep in mind that you should not give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under age 4.

Which treatments should I take for flu symptoms?

The flu treatment you should take depends on your symptoms. For example, if you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can be helpful.

Decongestants come oral or nasal spray forms. Decongestants are used to reduce swelling in the nasal passageways. However, nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than a few days because, if they are used too long and then stopped, they can cause rebound symptoms.

If you have a runny nose, postnasal drip, or itchy, watery eyes -- then an antihistamine may be helpful for your flu symptoms. Antihistamines block the effect of "histamine," and help relieve such annoying symptoms as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge.

Over-the-counter antihistamines often make people drowsy, whereas decongestants can make people hyper or keep them awake. Keep in mind that both decongestants and antihistamines can interact with other drugs you may be taking, and they may aggravate some conditions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which flu symptom treatment is best for you.

Which treatment should I use for nasal congestion?

If you need immediate relief for swollen, congested nasal passages, you may get relief with an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray. It is important to stop using decongestant nasal sprays after three days to avoid the development of rebound congestion.

Some doctors suggest using a saline spray instead of a medicated spray. Saline sprays loosen thick mucus in the nasal passageways but have no rebound effect. They may be used for extended periods of time without significant side effects.

Is it safe to take a decongestant if I have high blood pressure?

Decongestants can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are oral decongestants commonly available in over-the-counter products. In general, if your blood pressure is well controlled with medications, then a decongestant shouldn't be a problem as long as you monitor your blood pressure. This may not be true, however, with certain types of blood pressure medications. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about safety.

Continued

Which flu treatment works best for my cough?

An occasional cough may clear the lung of pollutants and excess phlegm. A persistent cough should be diagnosed and treated specifically. On the pharmacy shelf, you'll find numerous cough medicines with various combinations of decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics/antipyretics, cough suppressants, and expectorants. Ask your pharmacist which combination, if any, would be appropriate for your cough.

Which flu treatment should I take to lower my fever and body aches?

Children should avoid aspirin. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or medicines like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are over-the-counter options for fever and pain relief. Each medication has risks. Check with your doctor or pharmacist as to which medication may be suitable for you.

Be careful not to overdose! These drugs are often mixed in with other multi-symptom cold and flu remedies you may also be taking. They may also be ingredients in other prescription medicines you may be taking. Your pharmacist can help you check for drug ingredients and interactions.

Which flu treatment is best for my sore throat?

Drinking lots of fluids and using salt water gargles (made by combining a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of salt) can often be helpful for easing the pain of a sore throat. Over-the-counter pain relievers and medicated lozenges and gargles can also temporarily soothe a sore throat. Get your doctor's approval before using any medications, including over-the-counter drugs, and don't use lozenges or gargles for more than a few days. The medications could mask signs of strep throat, a bacterial infection that should be treated with antibiotics.

Is an antiviral drug a commonly used flu treatment?

Antiviral flu drugs are taken to decrease the severity and duration of flu symptoms. In some cases they may be used to prevent flu. They are best taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, but they may still offer benefits if taken later. Talk to your doctor about your health situation because most antivirals do have side effects.

What are the recommended antiviral drugs for children?

At the first sign of flu symptoms, talk to your doctor about whether antiviral drugs might benefit your child. These flu drugs can help a child get better sooner and may prevent serious flu complications.

Antivirals work best when taken during the first two days of illness. However, the drugs can still help when given more than 48 hours after symptoms start.

Continued

Can antibiotics help my flu symptoms?

Antibiotics cannot help flu symptoms. The flu is caused by a virus, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics needlessly may increase your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. If you get a secondary bacterial infection with the flu virus, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the secondary infection.

For more information, see Flu Treatment: Antibiotics or Not?

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 10, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: "Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu." 

CDC: "2011-2012 Influenza Season: Disease Activity;" "If You Have a Cold or Flu, Antibiotics Won't Work For You!" and "Seasonal Influenza: What You Should Know about Flu Antiviral Drugs."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Flu Facts;" "Antibiotics: When They Can and Can't Help" and "Cough Medicine: Understanding Your OTC Options."

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Common Cold: Treatment."

WebMD Medical Reference: "Kids' Cold Medicines: New Guidelines."

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination