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Tips for feeling better while under the weather
There is no known cure for the common cold or influenza, although researchers keep looking for one. Most colds will last 7-9 days and most bouts of the flu 2-3 days with or without treatment, but there are things you can do to feel better while it lasts.
Get plenty of rest -- as much as 12 hours or more a night.
Drink liquids -- to keep mucus thin and easy to clear.
Over the counter drugs offer relief for nasal congestion, fever, muscle aches and sore throat. Never give aspirin to a child younger than 16 without a doctor's advice, and don't give cold medications to children less than 6 years old.
Decongestants are alright for temporary relief of a stuffy nose, but should not be used for more than five days since the body may fight back by producing even more mucus. Consult a doctor before taking a decongestant containing pseudoephedrine if you have diabetes or heart, blood pressure, prostate or thyroid problems.
Over-the counter analgesics such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen may offer relief, but may also prevent your body from generating the heat it needs to fight a cold or flu virus. Consult your doctor if your fever lasts for more than three days or your fever is greater than 103° F.
Over-the-counter cough suppressants offer temporary relief, but suppressing a cough is not always a good idea since it is the body's way of clearing breathing passages.
Sleeping with your head elevated six to eight inches above your feet may reduce nighttime coughing.
Get plenty of rest.
Gargle with warm salt water - mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Warm water gargles made with chamomile tea, fresh lemon or apple cider vinegar may also offer relief.
Soothe the throat with cough drops, hard candy or sugarless gum. These stimulate secretion of saliva, which bathes and cleanses the throat.
Rest your voice -- If your sore throat involves an inflamed larynx, talking a lot may lead to more irritation and temporary loss of your voice.
Humidify the air -- Adding moisture to the air prevents irritation caused by dry mucous membranes. Saline nasal sprays also help.
Avoid air pollutants -- Avoid smoking and smoke-filled rooms, and fumes from household cleaners or paint.
Note: See a doctor if you were exposed to strep or have any of these symptoms: fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen neck glands, difficulty breathing or swallowing, tonsils with pus, or severe pain that doesn't improve in a few days.
This information constitutes general medical information and is not intended as medical advice in any particular case. Please consult a physician as appropriate.
Sources: Mayo Health Oasis, The Medical Advisor (Time-Life Books, 1996)
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