Beat the Bug: Your Guide to Colds & Flus

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Colds & Flus

Beat the Bug: Your Guide to Colds & Flus
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How do you know it's cold and flu season? One word: ah-choo!

About 25 million to 50 million people in the United States will get the flu this year, and more than 60 million people will catch a cold. Will you be one of them? Here are recommendations for beating these pesky seasonal sicknesses.

An Ounce of Prevention

There is no cure for colds and flu, so it's best to avoid getting sick in the first place. A strong immune system may help prevent the common cold or flu. Proper nutrition, hygiene, rest, and stress management can strengthen the immune system.

Since both colds and the flu are highly contagious, good hygiene is important. Wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your face. Keep common surfaces in homes and offices clean to prevent spreading the cold & flu viruses. If possible, steer clear of those who have the flu. Adults are contagious for three to five days, but kids can remain contagious for up to 10 days.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

One look at all of the available cold and flu products and it's easy to see why some people don't know which product to choose. Many cold and flu remedies contain several ingredients to treat a variety of possible symptoms. What do pharmacists recommend? Buy products that contain only the active ingredients you need. This will save you money and prevent unnecessary side effects and drug interactions. Here's a rundown of the main ingredients in cold and flu formulas:
  • Decongestants break down congestion and promote drainage
  • Antihistamines reduce sneezing, dry out mucus, and promote rest
  • Cough suppressants subdue coughs and calm prickly throats
  • Expectorants help bring up mucus from the lungs
  • Analgesics reduce pain and fever
Cold and flu remedies cannot cure or even shorten your sickness, but most can help ease your symptoms. When looking for cold and flu products, it's really about choosing what makes you feel the best.

Antibiotics are effective against bacteria but not against colds or the flu, which are caused by viruses. Antibiotic overuse has produced bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics, a serious public health threat.

Cutting-Edge Alternative Treatments

The next big thing: zinc nasal sprays. A study to be published in February 2000 found that Zicam zinc nasal spray shortened cold symptoms from almost 10 days to about three days. Zinc lozenges are also thought to shorten cold symptoms, but be careful: Large doses of zinc can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Try zinc lozenges after eating.

Many herbalists recommend goldenseal for flu. Best known as an antibiotic (antibacterial) herb, goldenseal also has antiviral and immune-stimulating actions. Echinacea is also said to shorten symptoms when taken at the start of a cold or flu. But echinacea probably won't help if taken constantly over a long period of time.

What about vitamin C? Doses of 500 mg four times a day may shorten cold symptoms by about a day or so. The jury is still out on whether vitamin C works as well for the flu as it does for colds.

Hot Fluids and Rest (ahh…)

Mom was right: drink a lot of fluids. Flu can cause fever, and fever is dehydrating. Sip herbal tea, juices, soups (notably chicken soup), water, and other nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day. Drinking a lot of fluids will help move the virus out of your system. Hot fluids also relieve sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough.

No matter what your favorite remedy is, a cold or flu will still have to run its course. Save your body's energy for your immune system. Grab that book you've been meaning to read, snuggle in comfortably, and get plenty of rest. It's the best you can do.

Learn more about caring for a cold in the Cold & Flu eCenter. Shop for cold-relief products in the Store, or use our new Cough & Cold Advisor to find exactly the right products for you.

This article is the copyright of and is reprinted with their permission. is a registered trademark of, Inc. All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Information provided by is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Only your healthcare provider should diagnose your healthcare problems and prescribe treatment.

Statements regarding dietary supplements are provided solely to offer our customers additional information about alternative medicine. No health claims for these products have been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor has the FDA approved these products to diagnose, cure or prevent disease. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting any course of supplementation or treatment, particularly if you are currently under medical care. Make sure you carefully read all product packaging prior to use. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your healthcare provider.







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