NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — 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, but CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has a list of tips for dealing with the risks and pain of what has become a deadly influenza season.
Over The Counter Medicine
Regardless of symptoms, people should be mindful of the decisions they make with over-the-counter drugs.
“OTC meds can handle almost all the symptoms, whether it’s a cough or a cold or influenza,” said Dr. Peter Shearer from Mount Sinai Hospital. “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.
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.
Sheare adds 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.
“Other things like nasal saline drops and sprays are good,” 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.”
Seeking More Serious Care
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.