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    Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

    How to Treat the Flu

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    The first step in treating this illness is to take good care of yourself. If you have symptoms -- fever, chills, aches, and feeling bad all over -- doctors say you should rest, eat healthy food, and drink more fluids than you usually do. A fever can dry out your system, so you need to replace what you’re losing. Water and broth are fine, especially if you don’t really want to eat.

    It’s best to give your body a rest. So if you don’t feel much like moving around, it’s fine to stay in bed. Get up when you feel you can. Don’t exercise if you have chest congestion, a hacking cough, body aches, or fever.

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    Do Over-the-Counter Medicines Work?

    Fever reducers, antihistamines, decongestants, and cough medicines may help you feel better, but they won’t help you get better any faster.

    Read labels carefully. Some products may have side effects you don’t want. Some antihistamines can make you drowsy. That’s why they’re usually only in nighttime cold medicines. Decongestants can boost your blood pressure, so skip them if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. They might make you jittery or nervous, or keep you awake at night.

    Some doctors think a fever can be a good thing, because it zaps the flu virus. Does that mean taking medicine to lower your fever could slow your recovery? With a mild fever (less than 100 degrees F), maybe by a little bit. But if you feel lousy you may want to take one anyway. Fever makes your heart and lungs work harder, so these meds may be a good idea for older people and those with heart or lung disease. If your fever is high or doesn’t get better after 2 or 3 days, call your doctor to see if you need an office visit.

    Products made to treat more than one symptom can help, too. But if you have only one or two complaints, pick a medicine that treats what’s bothering you.

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