How Do You Fight The Flu?
You can’t “cure” a cold or flu with medication but there are many ways to help you feel better. Colds and flu primarily affect your ears, nose, throat and eyes, and several over-the-counter medications may relieve some of your symptoms in a few days. But they don’t always work for everybody. What you mostly need is time— time for your body’s immune system to do battle with the particular virus that’s got you down.
While your immune system is at work, you can take some steps to relieve the aggravating symptoms you’re experiencing. If you decide to use medication, read labels carefully and, as with any drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Here are some tips from Michael Castleman, author of Cold Cures (New York, Ballantine Books, ©1987):
Get some rest. Your body works hard to throw off a cold or flu, which is why you may feel lethargic.
Drink plenty of fluids. They help relieve sore throats and nasal congestion and prevent dehydration.
Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®), Ibuprofen (such as Advil®) or buffered aspirin for headaches, body aches or fever. Additionally, recent reports suggest that zinc lozenges can help reduce viral symptoms. Read labels carefully to guard against side effects. Children under 18 should not take aspirin for colds or flu because of its association with Reye’s syndrome, a serious and often fatal disease.
Don’t suppress productive coughs; they can help clear the respiratory system. Suck on hard candies to soothe dry coughs. Over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan can be effective against both kinds of coughs.
Be considerate. Avoid other people for the first few days when your illness is in its most contagious stage. This benefits you as well as others since it may be possible to “re-catch” a virus from those you infected.
Still have questions?
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at for up-to-date information on the current flu season, including detailed information on flu activity.