Home Remedies for the Common Cold and Flu Viruses

Q: I am suffering from persistent blocked nose and sneezing. There is lot of phlegm when I cough. What should I do?

A:You may want to try some sort of vaporizer and/or a saline nasal spray to help clear your nasal passages. The water vapor from a vaporizer should also help with the phlegm, if it is a dry phlegm. You should also check the color of the phlegm. If it’s clear, white, or pale, the infection may be viral, and antibiotics may not be necessary. If it’s yellow, green, brown, or bloody, or if you are having fevers, chills, chest pains, or have other health problems, you might need antibiotics. In these cases, contact your doctor for the appropriate medication.

Q: I have a cold and have a stuffy nose and a dry or sore throat. What can I do or take so I feel better at work during the day?

A:The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases list these strategies that may relieve cold symptoms: Get plenty of rest; Drink adequate amount of fluids; Gargle with warm salt water; Use cough drops or throat sprays. The Food and Drug Administration lists these cough and cold medicines that may relieve cold symptoms: Nasal decongestants — unplug a stuffy nose; Expectorants — loosen mucus so it can be coughed up; Antihistamines — lessen or stop runny noses and sneezing; Pain relievers — reduce fever, headaches, and minor aches and pains. It’s important to read labels on all over-the-counter therapies and medications. Some cold medications have the same active ingredients, interact with other medications, or should not be used in certain patients. It’s particularly important to consult your physician or healthcare provider before using any therapy, to make sure it’s appropriate for you. This information is solely educational. It’s important for patients to consult their physician or health care provider about any specific question regarding their health and medications, particularly before taking any action.

Q: What can I use for a cough caused by post-nasal drip?

A:This is a very good observation. Most people, including health care providers do not realize that most often cough due to colds are caused by post-nasal drip. American College of Chest Physicians recommends an antihistamine-decongestant combination to be the first-line therapy to treat acute cough due to colds.

Q: Are there signs when you are definitely contagious to others when you are ill?

A:One of the most important issues is what is actually causing the illness. You could be contagious from a cold, an infection of some sort, or other health status. There are few ways to know for certain whether you are contagious without going to see a doctor. For example, if you have a problem such as an upper respiratory infection, it can be possible to spread the infection – especially if you have a fever. If you feel ill but do not have a fever, you will probably not spread whatever it is that you have to others. The best way to determine what to do is to check your temperature to see if you have a fever.

Q: What medication can I give to an infant, 3 months old, with cold symptoms: runny nose, cough and nasal congestion?

A:Most manufacturers of cough and cold medications do not recommended cough and cold medications for children under the age of 4. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cough and cold products should not be given to children under 2 years of age unless directed by a health care provider.

Q: What are medications that can be used for a dry cough?

A:Fluids may help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat. Dry, hacking coughs respond to honey in hot water, tea, or lemon juice. You can try to elevate your head with extra pillows at night to ease a dry cough. Over the counter cough suppressants control or suppress the cough reflex and work best for a dry, hacking cough that keeps you up at night.

Q: What is the best over-the-counter remedy for nasal and ear congestion due to a cold virus? No cough, no fever present.

A:The nose becomes congested when the tissues lining it become swollen. The swelling is due to inflamed blood vessels. Decongestants shrink the blood vessels in the lining of the nose. These medicines only relieve stuffiness, not a runny nose or other symptoms. Try these steps to thin the mucus, which can help you breathe easier and get nasal secretions back to normal: Use gentle saline nasal sprays (Ocean, AYR). Increase the humidity in the air with a vaporizer or humidifier. Drink extra fluids. Hot tea, broth, or chicken soup may be especially helpful. Keep your head elevated at night when congestion is worst.

Q: How can I get rid of post-nasal drip and a constant cough?

A:Postnasal drip and throat irritation/coughing can be the result of allergies and other medical conditions. Consult your health care provider for proper evaluation and diagnosis. If your symptoms are due to allergies, there are a variety of medications available, including over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal rinses, prescription medications and corticosteroid sprays. Finding the right medication may take a little experimentation, so it’s essential to work with your doctor to find a treatment option that brings you the greatest relief and meshes with your daily needs. For postnasal drip, antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays, or Astelin nasal spray are generally effective treatments. Consult your health care provider for specific recommendations.

Q: When I cough it brings up a brown, thick mucus. I feel fine other than fatigue. I stopped smoking about a year ago. Is this normal?

A:Changes in the color of mucus, such as green, yellow, or brown, should be evaluated by your health care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. This could be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

Q: I have had bronchitis for three weeks, coughing up phlegm and mucous the first two weeks and slowly getting better. However, I still have a tickling cough. Is there anything I can take for this? Should I use regular cough medicine? I feel like I’m 90 percent better but want to get over the last stage.

A:Bronchitis is an inflammation of the passages of the lungs. Even though you may have treated the acute phase of bronchitis, you may experience a nagging cough that can linger for a few weeks. Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day to help thin out the mucus and make the medicines more effective.

Q: For the past three days my sinus and allergy has been acting up. My nasal passage has been swollen on the right side, then it switches to the left side, but mostly on the right side. I blow and see yellowish green mucus and sometime blood. I lose my sense of smell (I lost my sense of smell last summer for about four to five months). What could this be? Is it because of my sinus? What should I do? What should I try next?

A:Yellow or green mucus may be a sign of infection. Consult your physician or health care provider for proper evaluation and treatment of mucus changes. In general, sinus congestion is best relieved by decongestants. However, decongestants can often make people feel jittery. They can also increase heart rate and blood pressure. So, if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking decongestants. Antihistamines work better for symptoms like runny nose or sneezing. Nasal sprays are another option for treating congestion and work quickly to clear nasal passageways. Medicated nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days because of the risk of a rebound effect, which can lead to more congestion. Saline nasal sprays can also help clear nasal congestion. Although they work more slowly, there is no risk of a rebound effect with saline sprays. Always read and follow the complete directions and warnings on over-the-counter (OTC) medications and discuss their use with your health care provider before using them.

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