Pharmacist Q&A: Colds and Flu

Answers provided by Walgreens pharmacist Stacia Woodcock.

Posted on | By Stacia Woodcock, Pharm D | Comments ()

Get the answers to the cold and flu questions you submitted via Facebook and Twitter. Prepare yourself for the months ahead so you can stay healthy all season long – and learn how to recover more quickly if you do find yourself under the weather.

What is the difference between cold and flu symptoms?
The flu tends to be worse than the common cold. Its symptoms, such as fever, body aches, fatigue, and dry cough are more debilitating and intense. Colds tend to be milder, with symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose.

What OTC medications should I keep on hand in case of cold or flu?
Keep these OTCs on hand: Nasal decongestants unclog a stuffy nose; cough suppressants quiet a cough; cough expectorants loosen mucus so you can cough it up; antihistamines stop runny noses and sneezing; and pain relievers and fever reducers ease fever, sore throats, headaches and minor aches and pains. 

Does everyone need a flu shot?
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive a flu shot every flu season. Not only will this protect you, but also those around you since the flu is an illness caused by a virus that can quickly spread to others.

When a member of the family gets the flu, as the caretaker, how can prevent myself and the other members of the family from catching it?
The flu can spread when you touch something that has the virus on it – and then you put your hands near your mouth, nose, or eyes. Therefore, wash your hands as frequently as possible and sanitize infected areas of your house.

I have a cold accompanied by a sore throat and dry cough – what’s the best home remedy I can do now since I don’t want to take any pharmaceutical meds?
Gargling with salt water removes irritants like allergens, bacteria, and fungi from the throat. Sipping hot drinks such as hot tea with honey and lemon soothe your sore throat. Nasal saline irrigation treatments help reduce congestion and facial pain. A humidifier helps ease symptoms such as dry sinuses, congestion and cracked lips.

I have a cough that brings up mucus and a post-nasal drip, what can help?
If your cough is wet-sounding and produces mucus, use a cough expectorant, which opens air passages by temporarily thinning mucus for a more productive cough. Antihistamines and decongestants will help reduce the post-nasal drip.

What is the best thing to take for a dry cough?
Taking a cough suppressant, which lessens your body’s reflex or desire to cough, can ease a dry cough. You can also use cough drops, which often contain menthol, benzocaine or eucalyptus oil to calm a cough and add flavor to the product. 

Article written by Stacia Woodcock, Pharm D
Walgreens Pharmacist