Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to cure flu and cold?

It's winter and everybody has to experience common cold and get the flu, which can be a very annoying thing for alot of people while others just handle it as a small matter that goes away by itself.

Symptoms and signs of a cold:

The flu virus causes the following :

  • Fever.
  • Malaise, fatigue and headache and feeling of bone pain.
  • Running nose, sneezing and nasal congestion/obstruction.
After a few days it may be complicated by secondary bacterial infection causing:

  • The mucous (phlegm) color turns yellow, yellowish-green.
  • Enlarged tonsils.
  • Very sore throat and pharingitis.
  • Sinusitis (headache over nasal sinuses specially in the morning, mucoid or purulent secretions).
  • The infection can also spread to the larynx, pharynx and bronchi causing laryngitis, pharingitis and bronchitis.
General measures of treatment :

Rest. It's important to have adequate rest and sleep to strengthen your body as there's no way to kill the virus , so it's essential to have some rest and avoid cold air draughts. All you can do against the virus is to support and help your body to fight, reduce the symptoms and feel better, treat the bacterial infection (if occured) and wait until the symptoms subside.
The flu (alone) is a self-limited disease, the associated bacterial infection will need antibiotics (keep reading!).

Drink enough fluids.

Warm tea or chicken soap can help soothe your throat, also inhaling the steam can reduce the nasal congestion. Lozengens can help prevent and cure sore throat.

In case of a fever, sponge the body with lukewarm water (forehead, face and extremeties).Avoid very cold compresses/fomentations. Don't wrap yourself in so many blankets, don't close all the windows! Let some fresh air come into the room but avoid direct air draughts.

Avoid sneezing and coughing in your hands (use a tissue), and wash them if you do. Avoid touching your eyes and other people with your contaminated hands as it may transmit the infection to your eyes or to others.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. It's said that vitamin C can help shorten the duration of the disease. Nutrition is important during disease, Vitamins, zinc and copper are essential for your body.

Stop smoking and avoid exposure to smoke and pollution, it's very irritating for your nasal mucosa. Alcohol and smoking also reduce your immunity in different ways.

Medication and treatments of cold:
  • Antibiotics can be used to treat the bacterial infection. Remember that antibiotics can't kill viruses , as we said the flu is caused by a virus, so antibiotics should be used only when secondary bacterial infection occur in association with the flu. (and they are often associated!). But if the symptoms are mild fever, chilling and sneezing , antibiotics aren't necessary.

    However some doctors prescribe antibiotics always as a prophylaxis against bacterial infection if the symptoms are severe and bacterial infection is most likely going to occur.
  • Analgesics and antipyretics:Aspirin, Paracetamol (eg. Advil, Tylenol and Panadol) and others are used to reduce fever, reduce the nasal congestion and relief the headache and bone ache. You can read this post for information on analgesics, aspirin and which pain killer you should use.

    Most today's analgesics contain Paracetamol(or Ibuprofen) and Pseudoephiderine.
    Paracetamol is the substance responsible for reducing the pain and fever while pseudoephiderine [a decongestant] can help decrease the congestion and rhinitis (running nose).
    Some drugs contain paracetamol only, or paracetamol and caffiene as it can help the effect of paracetamol. Some drugs contain pseudoephiderine only such as nasal decongestants.
  • Decongestant nasal drops or Gel are used to relief the nasal obstruction/congestion but only used 2-3 times per day as their overuse causes rebound congestion.
  • Oral lozengens can help it treating and preventing pharyngitis and sore throat.
  • There's alot of controversy about Antihistaminics. They may have the ability to reduce the allergic symptoms (rhinitis and sneezing) but they also have side effects like arrhythmia and drying of the mucous (making it harder to be expelled/expectorated).
Children and hypertensive patients, patients receiving other medications should consult a doctor about which drugs they should take to cure a cold.
Never use adults' drugs with children even with smaller doses.
Some drugs are dangerous for cardiac and hypertensive patients (as decongestants and antihistaminics).