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How do I stay healthy during cold and flu season?
What should I do if I get a cold?
Americans suffer through more than one billion colds each year. Unfortunately, there is no quick cure. The virus must run its course, but you can treat the symptoms to make the illness more tolerable. For a sore throat, try a cup of hot tea with honey to decrease congestion and soothe the throat. Gargling a solution of eight ounces of warm water mixed with a quarter teaspoon of salt helps reduce throat pain and break up congestion. If coughing is an irritant, sip warm water and suck on cough drops to keep the throat moist. Over-the-counter decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through. They also help relieve a runny nose and postnasal drip, which can cause a sore throat. Use Ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for relief from fever and aching muscles.
Do antibiotics work to treat a cold?
Unfortunately—and contrary to popular belief—colds cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are designed to combat bacteria-borne illnesses like strep throat, but are ineffective against viruses, which are the top cause of colds, the flu and other respiratory illness. Viral symptoms, including sore throat and congestion, usually subside on their own. Because nearly half of cold and flu sufferers seek antibiotic treatment, antibiotics are often used unnecessarily. Though antibiotics are safe to use, unnecessary and overuse of this powerful treatment tool may lead to antibiotic resistance, which is the creation of bacteria strains called ‘super bugs’ that are increasingly difficult to treat. In other words, infections that were once treatable with antibiotics may become challenging to treat.
When should I make an appointment with a physician?
The following symptoms may indicate something more serious than a cold and thus warrant a visit with your doctor:
Dr. Gretchen Belzer-Curl is a board-certified family medicine physician at Sanford North Mandan Clinic. A graduate of the UND School of Medicine, Dr. Belzer-Curl specializes in women’s medicine, preventative health, abnormal Paps and colposcopies. She enjoys music, skiing, running and time with her husband and four children.