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Vitamins? Zinc? Soup? Everyone has a ‘cure’

November 02, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings Source: The Columbus Dispatch – October 31, 2010 – By Suzanne Hoholik

Ask 10 friends for tips on how to treat a cold or flu and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.

Some say Airborne works. Others choose Sudafed, Cold-EEZE or Mucinex. Then there are those who swear by vitamin C, echinacea or zinc.

And then, almost as an afterthought, people will remind you to drink lots of orange juice and eat hot soup.

“Unfortunately, you’re just going to be looking at controlling some of the symptoms,” said Jarrett Bauder, a pharmacist at UpTown Pharmacy in Westerville.

“You’re not going to be doing anything to speed up the healing process, just making yourself comfortable getting through that.”

Americans spent about $3.6 billion on over-the-counter medicines to fight colds, coughs and sore throats last year, said Mintel International, a market-research firm. On top of that, people pay millions more for prescription drugs to help them get through cold and flu season.

Dr. Diana Donati, a North Side primary-care physician, said colds spend “four days coming, four days here and four days going.”

She said it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking four to eight glasses of fluids — not caffeine — a day. This will thin nasal secretions, making it easier to get rid of them, she said.

“When I’m sick, I push the green tea; that works for me,” Donati said. “You just have to find what works for you.”

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious-disease specialist at Riverside Methodist Hospital, said many over-the-counter cold remedies have a placebo effect.

“I could sell you a piece of candy and tell you this candy can improve your immune system and there are people who take these and feel better,” he said. “The best advice I can give people is, unless you have a compromised immune system, your own body will fight the virus and take care of it on its own.”

Gastaldo said the things that your parents preached — staying home, drinking fluids and resting — are still the best medicine.

People who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, have prostate symptoms, or take Ritalin or antidepressants should talk to their doctor before taking any cold medicines.

The flu is different and requires different treatment.

If you have the flu, your symptoms will be a fever of 103 to 104 degrees, a dry cough and “horrible joint pain,” Donati said.

She said prescription Tamiflu could shorten the time that you’re sick. She recommends lots of fluids and Tylenol or Advil every two hours to relieve the joint pain.

Relenza is another prescription medication that helps with flu symptoms, but it can cost $60 to $70 a course, Bauder said.

“If taken within that first 48 hours … they’re reporting a decrease of one to two days of the flu,” he said. “That could make a huge impact on you if you need those days or if you have a weak immune system.”

John Henry Hughes, an Ohio State University virologist, said prevention is the best course.

“We tend to pick up the viruses that cause cold and flu in our hands from the telephone, elevator button; and then we transfer them to our face,” Hughes said.

He preaches soap and water instead of hand sanitizer.

“These sanitizers work, (but) they’re not going to be 100 percent,” Hughes said. “Once in a while, you’ve got to wash your hands. You’re just moving crud and dirt on your hands, and eventually it will trap things.”

He hasn’t had a flu shot in 30 years and would prefer getting the flu so his immune system can build up a defense to it.

The one product Hughes likes is Kleenex Anti-Viral tissues. There are dots of detergent and citric acid on each tissue, he said. When you cough or sneeze into it, it kills cold and flu viruses so they can’t be spread as easily, he said.

Hughes said most people can handle a cold or the flu without spending money on remedies.

“The way I look at it, the symptoms we get with common colds and flu are not that bad compared to what we could get medically, like cancer,” he said.

“If you’re healthy, your body can handle it.”

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