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Well and Good: Battling Cold Season

Most adults come down with at least two colds every year, and yes, it’s more likely you’ll catch one in the fall or winter. There are lots of reasons for that: Kids are back at school, passing germs around. We’re all spending more time inside, in closer contact with each other.  And, germs and virusesthat cause cold symptoms are simply more prevalent at this time of year.

Most of us don’t run off to the doctor at the first sign of a cold, but instead try to treat the symptoms ourselves. Often, that’s just as well. Most cold symptoms we getare caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotic medicines won’t do a thing to help. Instead, you need to look at your symptoms, and find medications that will help you get some relief while the cold works its way out of your body.

Use single-ingredient medications when possible: You don’t want to take more medicine than you need. So, unless you really do have a cough/runny nose/aches/pains/ congestion/sore throat/etc., don’t buy the multi-symptom medications.  Instead, just treat the symptoms as they occur. If you have chest congestion, you need an expectorant. If you have a runny nose, try an antihistamine. At the pharmacy, we are happy to recommend medications based on the symptoms you describe.

Don’t buy too many medications until you actually get sick: It’s tempting to stock up before flu and cold season with a whole arsenal of medications, so you are prepared when illness inevitably strikes. However, the shelf life of some drugs is somewhat short, and you can’t be sure what your next cold will bring, so I recommend buying only a few basics that will help bring relief for the most common symptoms: Pain relievers; cough drops and/or sore-throat lozenges; and a cough syrup.

Do a sweep of your medicine cabinet: You likely have cold medicines left over from your family’s last bout with illness. Take a look at all the medications and toss out any that have expired.

Need a decongestant with pseudoephedrine? Bring your driver’s license: Nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are still available over-the-counter. These medications, under such brand names as Allegra-D, Claritan-D and Mucinex-D, are highly effective in combating nasal congestion due to colds and allergies. However, due to state and federal regulations, these medications must be kept behind the pharmacy counter, quantities are limited, and you must show identification and sign for them at purchase.

Avoiding colds altogether: Sadly, there’s no ironclad method for avoiding wintertime illnesses. But, some things you may have been warned about don’t really have much effect. For instance, getting your feet wet or going outside with wet hair don’t cause you to catch a cold, as you may have been warned as a child.  On the other hand, maintaining healthy habits can help reduce chances of getting sick this winter. So… Get your flu shot. (We’re still offering them at the pharmacy for $20!) Wash your hands frequently. Get plenty of sleep and maintain a balanced diet. If you keep your immune system in good shape, it will be that much easier for your body to fight off colds when they strike.