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Knocking out the flu

What treatments work

Doctors at the North Carolina Department Health and Human Services Department have said that the state has experienced a spike in flu activity since the middle of December. More worrying, they caution the heightened activity may cause more deaths.

Since the outbreak began in October, there have been 17 flu-related deaths in North Carolina. Nine of those deaths occurred during Christmas week.

And recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the outbreak “widespread” in 43 states.

At least 601 people in the United States had died of either influenza or pneumonia during the last week of the year, according to the CDC’s Cities Mortality Reporting System. The number of deaths was down from the 837 reported across the U.S. the previous week.

Young children and older adults are the most vulnerable to severe cases of the flu that require hospitalization.

If you think you have the flu, Dr. Charles Bregier of Novant Health Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine offers suggestions on what treatments work and what doesn’t.

What helps:

  • Analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help reduce fever and alleviate aches and pain. These products are sold over-the-counter under brand names such as Tylenol, Motrin and Advil. People who have high blood pressure, asthma or other chronic conditions should check with their doctor before taking these drugs.
  • Over-the-counter drugs such as decongestants and antihistamines can help with congestion, runny noses and cough. Again, if you have high blood pressure, you should consult a doctor before taking an antihistamine. Antihistamines do help with sleep.
  • Cough drops and hard candy are good for soothing sore throats, but shouldn’t be given to toddlers and young children because of possible choking hazards. Likewise, gargling with warm salt water can help a sore throat.
  • Dehydration is a very real risk for people who have fever and are ill, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids, including water, clear broth, non-acidic fruit juice like apple or grape and an herbal tea with honey. If your child won’t drink fluids, try giving them a Popsicle.
  • Often the most overlooked piece of advice when dealing with flu is staying home. First, you won’t infect anyone else and chances are you wouldn’t be effective at work anyway.
  • For patients with severe flu or at higher risk for developing complications from the flu, antiviral drugs can shorten the duration and severity of the flu when taken within the first two days that symptoms appear. This is a medication that your provider would prescribe for you if indicated.
  • Cold remedies for kids: The Food and Drug Administration advises to not give any over-the-counter cold, flu or cough medication to children younger than 2 years old.

It’s important to keep in mind that home, herbal and other over-the-counter remedies have generally been found to not be beneficial, and some of them could interact adversely with other medicines you are taking. Even cough medications that contain dextromethorphan (DM) should be used with caution if you are on certain medications like antidepressants and some others.

Vitamin C does help alleviate cold symptoms in many people but can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea in some patients.

Published: 1/7/2015