Cold, Flu and Allergies: What you need to know about common drugs, vaccines and remedies

  • This is the time of year when colds and flu are on our minds. Allergy symptoms can also increase with exposure to new and different allergens during the holiday season. And, what with all the holiday celebrations, getting sick is the last thing most of us want to experience.


    So, knowing how to treat such ailments, should they occur, is important. Here's a quick overview:


    Colds. The common cold is caused by a virus. The best policy is to avoid catching a cold in the first place, if you can. Scrupulous handwashing, getting plenty of rest, and eating healthy are your best preventive measures. But, if you do catch a cold, then the treatment is mainly aimed at relieving symptoms while you wait for it to run its course.

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    Most over the counter cold remedies treat a wide variety of symptoms. It's important to choose one that treats only the symptoms you actually have. Also, talk to your doctor or the pharmacist if you have questions about how cold medicine might interact with medicine you are already taking.


    Flu. Again, the best treatment for the flu is to avoid it altogether. This is especially important if you have asthma (as many people with allergies do), as the flu can further irritate already inflamed airways, greatly worsening asthma symptoms. So, get your flu vaccine each year. If you haven't gotten yours yet this year, check with your doctor. As long as it's still flu season, it's not too late to get your shot!


    If you get the flu, early detection is essential. There are new antiviral medicines, such as Tamiflu, that your doctor can prescribe to shorten your flu illness or make the symptoms much milder, if you start taking them within 48 hours of catching the flu. If someone in your family gets the flu, you can even take Tamiflu as a preventive medicine. If you miss the 48-hour deadline, then, like colds, you'll be treating the symptoms, while you wait for the flu virus to run its course.


    Again, check over the counter flu remedy labels and buy one which treats only the symptoms you actually have.


    If you notice your allergy symptoms getting worse during the holidays, there are a few things you can do to help. It's also important to keep taking your allergy medicine as prescribed. If you usually only take medicine during the summer, then check with your doctor to see if you can get a prescription for this time of year. Or, alternatively, you can buy one of the over-the-counter allergy medicines available, such as Claritin or Zyrtec.


    Whichever way you go, it's important to take your allergy medicine every day, not just when you notice that you have symptoms. It can take a couple of days before you get the full effect of an allergy medicine, so taking it on a regular basis is important.


    There are also a variety of herbal remedies on the market that claim to treat colds, flu and allergies. Before taking any of these, check with your doctor to find out if they would be right for you.

Published On: December 18, 2007