As the end of the year approaches it’s important to manage any cold or flu you develop to ensure you don’t burn out before the summer months and the fast-approaching Christmas holidays.
There are over 200 different rhinoviruses which can cause a cold, while different strains of the influenza virus cause the flu. Mild and moderate cases of both the cold and flu viruses can look and feel very similar. Symptoms of a cold can include: a fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius, sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, cough, or a sore throat. The flu has similar symptoms, but you may also experience aching muscles, limb and joint pain, diarrhoea or stomach upset, and loss of appetite.
If you’ve had a cold or flu before you may have left the doctor’s office frustrated that there is no easy cure, because antibiotics don’t work on viruses. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to help you feel better and recover as quickly as possible. You can still treat the symptoms, and keep yourself comfortable while your body’s immune system fights the battle against viral infection.
Top tips for recovery
Here are some ways to help you, or someone you care for, feel more comfortable while recovering from a cold or the flu.
Rest. It’s vital to help your immune system stay at its best to fight the virus. As a plus if you are resting at home, you are reducing the number of people that you could potentially share the virus with.
Keep up the fluids. Drinking lots of water helps your body stay hydrated and can also help to loosen any congestion in your airways. In addition to water, you can try some juice, clear broth, or warm water with lemon and honey.
Soothe a sore and dry throat. Use throat lozenges, a saltwater gargle or ice chips, whichever you prefer.
Try to clear your nose. Adding moisture to the air by using a vaporiser or a humidifier may help relieve congestion in the nasal cavity. There are also saline nasal drops or sprays to help relieve a runny or blocked nose. Use tissues to blow your nose gently, and make sure you dispose of used tissues straightaway to reduce the chances of spreading the infection.
Relieve fever, pain and discomfort. An over-the-counter analgesic (painkiller) such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help. You may also consider cold and flu medications to help manage symptoms. Typically, these combine antihistamines (to help reduce sneezing and watery eyes), decongestants (to help clear your nose), and analgesics (to reduce fever and relieve pain). Always discuss any medications and conditions you may have with your doctor or pharmacist to decide whether these medications are suitable for you before starting any new treatment.
When to see your doctor
As always, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about how you’re feeling, particularly if you or someone in your care:
• has cold or flu-like symptoms for longer than 10 days
• has a cough lasting longer than three weeks
• can’t or won’t drink fluids
• vomits frequently
• complains of an intense headache
• experiences chest pain or breathing difficulties
• develops a rash or fever.