NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Doctors say cold and flu season is in full swing, and that’s leaving a lot of folks feeling pretty lousy.
But there are some things you can do to feel better, and some you probably should avoid.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, there’s no cure for the common cold and the flu only responds to antiviral medications if they’re taken in the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Whether it’s over the counter meds or home remedies, experts say all you’re trying to do is ease your symptoms until your own immune system fights off the bugs.
Dr. Peter Shearer from Mount Sinai Hospital says they’re seeing a recent uptick in cases.
“Both upper respiratory infections and influenza, and data says flu season is definitely ramping up into full force,” he said.
Mary Diaz is one of the unlucky cold or possibly flu victims. She figures there’s only so much she can do to feel better.
“I take tea, a lot of tea, and a lot of rest,” Diaz said.
Shearer, the medical director of the Mount Sinai Emergency Department, says that tea with some honey is a decent home remedy for a cough and sore throat. Other symptoms can usually be handled at the drugstore, but it’s important to read those medicine labels carefully.
“OTC meds can handle almost all the symptoms, whether it’s a cough or a cold or influenza,” Dr. Shearer said. “A lot of meds are mixtures, combos of three or four meds. I steer people away from those into what exactly they need.”
If it’s a fever or muscle ache, ibuprofen, naproxen, naprosyn, or acetaminophen are the way to go. It’s important to not give aspirin to children.
Coughs respond best to guaifenesin or dextromethorphan. In children under 12, avoid the use of decongestants which can even cause side effects in some adults. Instead, experts suggest trying a low tech solution.
“Other things like nasal saline drops and sprays are good,” Dr. Shearer said. “With a humidifier, make sure it’s clean so the humidified air helps keep mucus loose so you can bring it up naturally.”
There are, of course, times when home remedies and over the counter meds aren’t enough and you should go to the doctor or hospital. It’s what Diaz had to do.
“I wasn’t breathing normal, waking up at night, gasping for air,” she said.
In children and the elderly, Shearer says it’s important to watch out for confusion or altered mental status, which could be a sign of something more than just a viral infection which would require a trip to the emergency room.
In babies and toddlers, you should also watch for signs of dehydration. If they’re not eating or drinking, or if they’re not urinating, it could be time to see a doctor.
A high fever that won’t come down is another reason to visit the doctor.