Gan Pou Wee
MPharm, MBBS, BCPS, RPh
“So, is there anything I can do when I feel I have a cold or flu?”
As most people already know, cold and flu are highly contagious diseases. A person with cold and flu may be able to infect other individuals 1 day prior to the development of the symptoms and up to 5 days after the development of symptoms.
Because droplets containing viruses may be coughed, sneezed, breathed into the air by an infected individual, and subsequently land on another person or surface just for an unsuspecting victim to touch it, it is recommended that the infected individual wear a mask or cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.
Furthermore, frequent handwashing or the use of alcohol hand rub is useful in preventing the spread of the disease. Wiping down common surfaces where hand contact occurs such as door knobs, phone, counter top, with antiseptic is also helpful.
“Ok, prevention is better than cure, but I already have a cold or flu, what should I do?”
First, patients with cold or flu should have plenty of rest and drink plenty of water. This allows the body to deal with the infection.
Next, we would want to know if the condition is severe enough to warrant a visit to your family doctor.
If an adult experience any of the following symptoms, he/she should visit a doctor:
- Feeling short of breath or difficulty in breathing
- Signs of dehydration (e.g. dizziness when standing, or passing very little amounts of urine)
- Persistent vomiting
- Fever more than 38ºC with shaking chills
- Symptoms lasting longer than 10 days
In children, they should be brought to a doctor’s attention when they experience any of the symptoms experienced in an adult or if they:
- refuse to eat or drink anything for more than a day
- are younger than 4 months
- have red eyes with yellowish discharge
- have ear pain, pull their ears, or other signs of an ear infection
If none of those symptoms occur, a patient may get some medications from the pharmacist which may help relief some of the nasty symptoms that come with a cold or flu. These include:
- Anti-histamines e.g Chlorpheniramine, cetirizine and loratadine
- Decongestants e.g l Clarinase® (Loratadine and Pseudoephedrine), Zyrtec-D® (Cetirizine and pseudoephedrine)
- Antitussive e.g Diphenhydramine, Pholcodeine
- Anti-pyretic and painkiller e.g Paracetamol, ibuprofen and diclofenac
Always speak to your pharmacist when in doubt. He/She will be able to assist you in choosing the right medication(s) and refer you to a doctor when necessary.
- Sexton D, McClain M. Patient education: Cough, runny nose, and the common cold (The Basics) [Internet]. Uptodate.com. 2017 [cited 9 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cough-runny-nose-and-the-common-cold-the-basics
- Sexton D, McClain M. The common cold in adults [Internet]. Uptodate.com. 2017 [cited 9 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-common-cold-in-adults-beyond-the-basics
- Patient education: Flu (The Basics) [Internet]. Uptodate.com. 2017 [cited 9 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/flu-the-basics
- Hibberd P. Influenza prevention [Internet]. Uptodate.com. 2017 [cited 9 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/influenza-prevention-beyond-the-basics
- Dolin R. Influenza symptoms and treatment [Internet]. Uptodate.com. 2017 [cited 9 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/influenza-symptoms-and-treatment-beyond-the-basics