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Cold and Flu

2007 Flu Clinic information

Colds and flu are both caused by viruses. It is estimated that at least 200 different cold viruses exist!! There are many kinds of flu viruses as well, but during any flu season, a single strain of flu virus is common.

Colds and flu viruses can be spread through the air (e. g. when someone with the virus sneezes or coughs), through direct contact (e.g. shaking hands or kissing someone with the virus) or through indirect contact (e.g. sharing beverage or objects with someone with the virus).

Simply having the virus on your hands will not lead to infection because your skin is an effective barrier against bacteria, viruses and germs. A person becomes infected when they touch their eyes, nose or mouth, as this allows the virus to enter your body.


News items on influenza:
  • CDC on Seasonal Flu plus links to information on avian and pandemic flu
  • Wisconsin Div. of Public Health on influenza
  • Milwaukee Dept. of Health on influenza

Home Remedies
  • Using a humidifier may help you breathe more easily. If you do use a humidifier, remember to change the water and clean the tank daily with a mild solution of bleach.
  • Gargling with salt and warm water can help relieve a sore throat. Instructions: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Use this to gargle every four hours.
  • Drinking hot beverages may temporarily help relieve a sore throat and clear nasal passages. Stay away from alcoholic beverages though; alcohol may actually lead to increased nasal congestion.
  • Drinking plenty of decaffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids (10-12 glasses per day) can help soothe a dry throat and relieve some coughs.
  • Using a cool mist vaporizer
  • Getting enough sleep won't cure a cold or the flu, but if you're tired, you should sleep. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep when you're sick is a good idea.
  • Being around smoke may make your sore throat and congestion even worse. Avoid smoking and second hand smoke.
Over the Counter Medications

Cold and flu medications relieve symptoms but do not actually kill the viruses. The only way to get rid of a cold or flu is to allow your body to eliminate the virus is its own way-this simply takes time. Although you can't cure a virus, you can take medications that will help you feel better:
  • Petroleum jelly or skin lotion can help ease your chapped nose or lips.
  • Hard candies, lozenges or cough drops may soothe a sore or dry throat.
  • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol or ibuprofen) may relieve body aches, headaches, sore throats and fever.
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen should be taken after meals or with food to minimize stomach irritation. If your fever is mild (below 100.5) you really don't need to try to bring it down; a mild fever is one of the ways the body is able to kill the virus and is not dangerous.
       Instructions: Take 1-2 regular-strength acetaminophen every 4 hours, or take 1-2 tablets of ibuprofen every 4-6 hours. People under 21 should not use aspirin to treat flu symptoms due to possible complications of Reye's Syndrome.
  • Decongestants, such as Sudafed, can help relieve a stuffy nose, ear congestion or ear popping. Pseudoephedrine may only be purchased in limited doses from the Norris Pharmacy.
  • Cough syrups should be used only for certain kinds of coughs.
       Coughing is useful because is removes secretions from your throat. If your cough is wet and productive (you are coughing up secretions), you should not use a cough suppressant unless the cough is preventing you from sleeping. Instead, try sucking on hard candies or drinking something hot.
       If you have a dry, non-productive cough, (you are not coughing up secretions) you may want to try an expectorant-suppressant cough syrup, such as Robitussin DM to loosen up the mucus and ease your discomfort.
  • Antihistamines are effective in relieving allergy symptoms, but they may not be very effective for treating cold or flu symptoms. Tip: they can also cause drowsiness, and should never be combined with alcohol.
  • Never take left-over or old antibiotics. Antibiotics do not kill cold or flu viruses and they do not help ease cold and flu symptoms. Never take someone else's medicine.


© 2004-2016 NHC. All rights reserved. Last updated: January 30, 2014
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