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Health Connection: September 2016

Is Your Medicine Cabinet Ready for Cold and Cough Season?

Sneezing, sore throat, a stuffy nose, coughing… Everyone knows the symptoms of the common cold. In the course of a year, people in the U.S. suffer from approximately 1 billion colds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. What can you do for your cold or cough symptoms? Besides drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest, you may want to take medicines.
There are lots of different cold and cough medicines, and they do different things:

  • Nasal decongestants can help unclog a stuffy nose.
  • Cough suppressants can help quiet a cough.
  • Expectorants can help loosen mucus so you can cough it up.
  • Antihistamines can help stop runny noses and sneezing.
  • Pain relievers can help ease fever, headaches and minor aches and pains. Note: There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are good for many types of pain. There are two main types of OTC pain medicines: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of OTC NSAIDs.

Here are some other important things to keep in mind about cold and cough medicines:

  • Read labels, because many cold and cough medicines contain the same active ingredients. Taking too much of certain pain relievers is unsafe.
  • Before giving OTC cough and cold medications to your child, talk with her doctor. Some medications aren’t appropriate for young children and
    can even be dangerous.
  • Antibiotics won’t help a cold, which is a viral illness.

There are additional things you can do to help you feel more comfortable when you’re fighting a cold:

  • Stay hydrated. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which can make dehydration worse.
  • A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. (Note: Children younger than 6 years are unlikely to be able to gargle properly.)
  • Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion. (For babies and young children, ask your doctor about using saline drops followed by suctioning using a bulb syringe.)
—Source: Mayo Clinic; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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