Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond Chicken Soup- What Helps the Common Cold?

This week I've been talking about colds and the role of vitamins can play in treating them. We know that the common cold is caused by a virus, so therefore antibiotics (which kill bacteria, not viruses) do NOT help. What DO I recommend for my patients?
Much of what your parents may have offered you works well, by the way...

1. Oral decongestants- phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine- work well to relieve nasal stuffiness, but can have significant side effects of raising blood pressure, causing palpitations/jitteriness or insomnia
2. SHORT TERM (3 days) use of nasal decongestant sprays; also relieve nasal congestion with less side effects
3. Nasal saline sprays and washes often relieve congestion as well as the medicated versions
4. Aromatic oils (menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus) used topically provide subjective improvement in nasal congestion- don't forget about the topical "vaporub" or the forms of these oils that you add to a warm bath!
5. Analgesics: acetaminophen (tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) help with headache and body aches
6. HYDRATE! Remember chicken soup? ANY liquid helps, but drinking warm broth often has the double benefit of sore throat relief along with hydration. The more you hydrate, the less headaches and looser mucus (so it will de-congest) you will have.
7. Salt water gargles ease sore throats as well; repeat several times a day for the first day or two, and don't be shy with the salt: use 2 tablespoons per 8 oz of water- it wont even all dissolve, but that's how much you really want to increase effectiveness.
8. Cough suppressant: try OTC products with "DM"- dextromethorphan. More on this tomorrow...

BOTTOM LINE: Symptomatic relief of the COMMON COLD is important, but antibiotics are NOT part of the equation.

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