How to Beat a Cold and Get Back to Your Life

Respiratory viruses are making life a misery for the Upstate. They are leaving behind a trail of tissues and veritable cacophony of coughing thanks to their prodigious output of drainage and yucky stuff best left undescribed.

But, fear not—quick action can help turn off that faucet in your head.

Start treatment the second you feel the first sniff. Viruses may be difficult to treat and routinely lasts 2-4 weeks—but can last for more than a month. (I once had one that lasted for eight weeks!)

Here’s my general advice for adults. Remember, it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist about your own specific care.

  • To help control the nasal congestion, I recommend over-the-counter Afrin for 3-4 days if there’s no history of hypertension.
  • Pseudoephedrine also helps in drying it up, but shouldn’t be used if you have a history of hypertension.
  • Mucinex can help break up the sputum, or mucus, coughed up from the lower airways. It’s important to thin it so that the body can cough it out; otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for a secondary infection such as sinusitis, bronchitis or even pneumonia.
  • Humidifiers, neti pots and saline sprays likewise help thin the mucus and speed the healing process.
  • As always, use ibuprofen or acetaminophen per directions and body weight for general body aches. Remember to drink extra fluids and get extra rest.
  • While it’s OK to have a fever of 100.4 in the setting of a viral illness, call your doctor if it lasts more than 48 hours.

Even after the fever is gone, you can still spread the virus through coughing. Remember, don’t cough into your hands; instead, cough into tissues or, in a pinch, the crook of your elbow.

Jeremy Byrd is a physician at Heritage Pediatrics & Internal Medicine–Simpsonville.

Last reviewed 12/2017

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