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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Cold and Flu Remedies: What Works?

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What's the best way to blow your nose?

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What's the best way to blow your nose?

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Explanation: There's a right way to blow your nose, and honking hard isn't it! The pressure from blowing forcefully can not only lead to an earache, it might force mucus back into your sinuses. To relieve nasal congestion, press your finger over one nostril, then blow gently. Decongestants can help clear a stuffy nose so you won't have to blow so much.

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High doses of vitamin C supplements may help:

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High doses of vitamin C supplements may help:

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Explanation: Popping vitamin C won't help you avoid a cold, but research suggests it may help make your next one a little shorter. Go easy though. Too much of the supplement taken for too long can lead to diarrhea or stomach cramps. Aim for no more than 2,000 mg a day. People with a history of kidney stones should talk to their doctor before taking vitamin C.

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Feed a cold, starve a fever?

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Feed a cold, starve a fever?

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Explanation: Starving never does a body good. To help your immune system fight off your cold or flu, it's important to eat right, even when you're sick. Even if you're not hungry, make sure to try to eat something because it will help your body recover. In the meantime, stay well-hydrated, replacing the fluids you're losing through coughing, congestion, or fever.

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Exercise can help you avoid the flu.

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Exercise can help you avoid the flu.

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Explanation: Regular exercise keeps your immune system strong, and can help you avoid coming down with the flu. It may even help shorten your down time once you're sick. It's OK to exercise when you have a cold. But if your symptoms include a fever, all-over body aches, or a headache, you have the flu and bed rest is important to help you get well. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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What helps a dry, hacking cough?

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What helps a dry, hacking cough?

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Explanation: A dry, hacking cough can be one of the worst symptoms of a cold or the flu, but fortunately there are many ways to calm it. Over-the-counter medicines can help suppress a cough, while a humidifier and gargling give much-needed moisture. A bonus to gargling warm salt water: It may help reduce inflammation and make a sore throat feel better.

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There's medicine that can shorten the flu.

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There's medicine that can shorten the flu.

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Explanation: If you take them early enough, anti-viral medicines can shorten your symptoms by a day or two. They may also help cut flu complications like pneumonia. That's especially important for people at higher risk of complications, like people who have heart or lung conditions, are over 65, or have a weakened immune system. Anti-virals can't substitute for a flu shot, though.

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An achy ear due to congestion? Relieve pain with:

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An achy ear due to congestion? Relieve pain with:

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Explanation: A stuffy nose can also lead to congestion in your ear. If your ears feel achy or "full," relieve the pressure and pain with an over-the-counter decongestant.

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Which may make your cough worse?

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Which may make your cough worse?

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Explanation: One of the last things you want to do when you have a cold or the flu is irritate your already-irritating cough. You need to stay well-hydrated when you're sick, but you may want to take a pass on citrus juices if you have a cough. While the vitamin C is good for your body, the acids in citrus can make your cough symptoms worse.

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How many days in a row can you use a decongestant nasal spray?

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How many days in a row can you use a decongestant nasal spray?

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Explanation: Decongestant sprays can work wonders for reducing nasal swelling and congestion, but their power can have a price. If you use them for more than 3 days in a row, you may get symptom rebound -- meaning worse nasal swelling when the medication wears off.

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Which may help soothe cold and flu symptoms?

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Which may help soothe cold and flu symptoms?

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Explanation: Simple foods such as tea and soup help keep your strength up when you're sick, and both may offer much-needed symptom relief. The steam from tea or soup can help clear nasal passages. Both keep you hydrated, and both help relieve a sore throat. A bonus: Some research suggests chicken soup may even reduce inflammation.

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Burning up? Take a:

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Burning up? Take a:

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Explanation: A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help lower a fever when you're flu-ish. But get out of the bath if you start to shiver. If the water isn't warm enough, that can make your fever worse. You can also reduce a fever by increasing fluids, removing extra clothes, and taking fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be sure to read the label because cold medicines might also have these ingredients. If your fever stays above 103 F longer than two hours after treatment, or if your fever lasts longer than two days, call your doctor right away.

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Call your doctor if you're sick and:

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Call your doctor if your nasal discharge:

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Explanation: If you have a cold or the flu, your runny nose can produce yellow, white, or even greenish mucus. But call the doctor if these symptoms last more than a week, or if you have face or tooth pain for more than a week -- especially if it's on one side.

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Your flu is contagious:

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Your flu is contagious:

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Explanation: You can pass the flu along before you even know you have it. You may be contagious with the flu up to a day before symptoms first appear and remain contagious for as many as five days after. Children can be contagious for a week or more. Stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after the fever goes away without the help of fever reducing medicines.

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Results: Great job. Hope your expertise in cold and flu remedies is contagious!

Results: Your knowledge of cold and flu remedies is nothing to sneeze at, but you might want to brush up just a bit!

Results: Hmmm, it may be time to grab a cup of tea and brush up a little on your knowledge of cold and flu remedies.