It’s coming to that time of year again! The clocks have just changed, the fires are being lit and we leave work in darkness. Winter comes every year but yet we are still somehow surprised when we start sniffling. Working in a pharmacy; with winter comes the avalanche of coughs, colds and flu symptoms.
Firstly it is important to know what the symptoms of a cold are and how they differ from flu. Flu is a viral infection which tends to come on rapidly. It usually means you feel symptoms in your whole body. It can be really serious and leave you exhausted even after you recover. On the other hand a cold tends to come on over a few hours or days. A cold usually just affects your head whereas flu affects your whole body.
The symptoms of cold and flu include runny/blocked nose, sneezing/coughing, aches and pains, high temperature and sore throat. The treatment is the same for each condition regardless. Colds and flu generally last for about 7 days at most. The treatment is the same for each condition regardless. Colds and flu generally last for about 7 days at most. Both infections are caused by viruses so antibiotics have no effect. However colds and flu can lead to secondary infections such as sinus infections or chest infections and these may need antibiotic treatment by your GP. Your pharmacist can help you differentiate between viral symptoms and bacterial infections.
Your pharmacist can help you treat the symptoms of both a cold and flu. If you have a temperature or aches and pains, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Anti-histamines will help with sneezing or a runny nose. However some cold and flu remedies containing antihistamines can cause drowsiness so caution should be used. Decongestants can relieve a blocked nose but can increase your blood pressure so shouldn’t be taken if you have heart problems. Also decongestants can have a stimulant effect so shouldn’t be taken before bedtime. There are also nasal sprays that can relieve congestion but these should only be used for 5-7 days.
You can end up with post nasal drip when you have a blocked nose which may result in a sore throat or a cough. Throat sprays and lozenges can relieve a painful throat. There are many cough bottles available, some of which just suppress a dry cough and some loosen phlegm from the chest to help relieve a chesty cough.
You can prevent yourself getting and then spreading the flu by taking simple precautions such as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with hand wash or alcoholic hand gel. A flu vaccine will also help to protect you from the most common flu viruses. It is also very important to keep you immune system boosted throughout the winter. Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea have all been shown to be beneficial in boosting the immune system.