Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Treat the Symptoms of Colds and Flu

By: Jason Perry, UF PharmD student - UCF Pharmacy Intern

Cold and flu symptoms make you feel miserable. There are, however, options available without a prescription to treat some of the most bothersome symptoms. Please seek medical attention if you have a fever over 102°F, have colored phlegm with fever and chills, or your symptoms do not improve.


Fevers are a natural defense against infection. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) are available over-the-counter to reduce fevers. NSAIDS include ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen.


Rest! You may feel tired for a number of reasons. Loss of sleep due to illness, lack of nutrients from vomiting or not eating, infection, and dehydration are some potential causes. Resting is one way to help your body heal. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.


Coughing is a natural defense against lung infection. There is only one ingredient available over-the-counter that will treat a cough, it is dextromethorphan. If your cough is productive (you can break up mucus) then you should avoid suppressing your cough.


Sneezing can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. There are several to choose from. Antihistamines are available as drowsy or non-drowsy formulations. Keep in mind, these products may cause dry mouth so drink plenty of fluids.

Sore Throat

If your sore throat is due to a simple cold you should increase your fluid intake, gargle with warm salt water, use lozenges, take an over the counter pain reliever (Tylenol or Advil) and rest your voice. To create salt water solution use ¼ teaspoon of salt in half a glass of warm water. Please seek medical attention if you’ve had a sore throat for several days and it is accompanied by a fever.


Sinus pressure and congestion can cause significant discomfort. There are two products available without a prescription that can be taken by mouth; they are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Pseudoephedrine is more effective and is kept behind the pharmacy counter. Decongestant nasal sprays are also available and should not be used for more than two days.
Further reading and additional information can be found at

Cold and Flu Care Kits are available at YOUR UCF Pharmacy and Knight Aide for ONLY $5.00!

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