By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC
This topic is one that bears repeating because of its importance, especially during this time when colds, coughs, and allergies are running rampant. We are seeing a large patient population with the same symptoms—runny nose, congestion, sore throat, sometimes fever, and a cough that lasts for weeks.
Inevitably, when I ask what the patient has taken prior to my prescribing anything, I get the same answer—over the counter cold remedies, which may help with symptoms, but can also increase heart rate and blood pressure. Patients who are already taking blood pressure medications, should avoid these products and look for those that are marked “BP,” indicating that they may be taken safely by those that have high blood pressure.
Many patients also admit that they have also taken “ampicilina” from Mexico, not realizing that antibiotics do not work on all bacterial infections, and they are worthless on viruses. Overuse of antibiotics for every sniffle has resulted in resistance, which has caused the emergence of “super bugs,” like MRSA, which are resistant to most antibiotics.
Other patients come in saying they have the flu, when all they have is a common cold. As such, the following is a list of symptoms that are usually found with the three most common conditions that we are seeing right now.
Flu: body aches, chest discomfort, cough, fatigue, fever/chills, and headache.
Cold: chest discomfort, cough, sinus drainage, sneezing, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
Allergies: Cough, itchy, stuffy, or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, sinus pressure, sneezing, and a tickle in the throat
For suspected flu, we usually do a flu test that will confirm it. Treatment, which is Tamiflu, must be started within 48 hours to be effective. Treatment for colds is simply treatment of the symptoms, with duration from 7 to 10 days. Allergies respond well to medications like Flonase, Claritin or Zyrtec, but they must be taken daily to be effective. In more severe cases, steroids may help.
Generally, increased fluid intake, Tylenol or Advil for sore throat or body aches, and Robitussin for cough, as well as rest, will make you feel better, without antibiotics.