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3. What's the best treatment for flu? continued...

What can help? Decongestants can help you breathe by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose. Saline nasal sprays can also help open breathing passages. Cough preparations, along with water and fruit juices, can help soothe a cough. If you use a multi-symptom cold medicine, choose the drug that matches your symptoms. And don't take two cold medicines with the same ingredients.

Don’t use over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children under 4. If your child is between 4 and 6, ask your doctor before giving any medicine. It’s safe to use these drugs to help relieve symptoms in kids 6 and older. Never give medicines with aspirin to young adults and children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

It's very important to drink a lot of fluids to keep the body hydrated. This helps loosen mucus. Limit drinks like coffee, tea, and colas with caffeine. They rob your system of fluids. As for eating, follow your appetite. If you're not really hungry, try eating simple foods like white rice or broth.

4. How do prescription flu medications work?

The prescription drugs Tamiflu and Relenza were developed to cut short a bout with flu. They help shorten recovery time by one or two days.

Tamiflu and Relenza work best when taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. However, clinical studies show the drugs still offer benefits when treatment starts more than 48 hours after symptoms begin. These drugs can also be taken to help prevent the flu if you're been exposed to the virus.

5. Should I get an antibiotic?

Antibiotics will not help treat the flu or a cold. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they do not kill any viruses, including viruses that cause the flu or colds.

However, the flu can weaken the immune system and open the door for bacterial infections. If your flu starts to get better and then gets worse, you may have a bacterial infection. See a doctor right away. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary.