Cold & Flu

Cold & Flu Articles

How does cold weather affect your health?

Cold weather brings a number of health risks for older adults. Close indoor contact with other people puts one at risk for cold and flu. Prolonged exposure to even mild cold puts one at risk for hypothermia. A lack of moisture in the air can make skin dry. And cold weather, which can narrow blood vessels, can increase the risk of heart attack. To fight back against these risks, people can wash their hands frequently, bundle up when going outdoors, use an oil-based skin lotion, shower in lukewarm water, and avoid intense outdoor activity. More »

Could a cold remedy make you sicker?

Even though some cold remedies are available over the counter, they are still medications that can interact with other drugs and interfere with existing health problems. It’s crucial to read the active ingredient list of any OTC medication before taking it, and talk to a pharmacist or doctor if unsure about the risks. Be especially careful with decongestants, antihistamines, and acetaminophen. Cold remedies with a combination of medications can be dangerous because a person may not need all of the medications.  More »

How to boost your immune system

How can you improve your immune system? On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? What if you improve your diet? Take certain vitamins or herbal preparations? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response? The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don't know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function. But that doesn't mean the effects of lifestyle on the immune system aren't intriguing and shouldn't be studied. Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand. More »

Influenza alert: When you need an antiviral boost

People older than 65 or with certain chronic health conditions are at higher risk of serious complications from an influenza infection. Lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, dementia, and liver or kidney disease make a person more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia. Current guidelines suggest people at high risk consider taking antiviral medications if they contract flu. The medications in use are oseltamivir (Tamiflu), taken as a pill, and zanamivir (Relenza), which is inhaled. The drugs are also FDA-approved to shorten the typical duration of the flu, but only by less than a day. It may not be worth the risk of drug side effects like nausea and vomiting. (Locked) More »

Beware of possible risks from cold and flu remedies

Taking over-the-counter cold and flu remedies that contain phenylephrine plus acetaminophen may lead to high blood levels of phenylephrine. Possible side effects—high blood pressure and a fast heartbeat—could spell danger for people with heart disease.  (Locked) More »

That nagging cough

A persistent or chronic cough that lasts longer than a few weeks can be worrisome, but for nonsmokers, the most common causes include asthma, bronchitis, post nasal drip, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and medication for high blood pressure. Before you attempt to diagnose and treat yourself, review these red flags that call for prompt medical attention. More »

When to contact your doctor about flu symptoms

When you have the flu, at what point should you consider seeing a doctor? Most adults contact their doctors when they feel really sick. But that general advice doesn't work very well for the flu. Why is that? A lot of people think the flu is like the common cold, a minor and temporary illness. It's not. Just getting the flu makes anyone feel really sick for a few days. You feel physically weak, you have no energy, you ache all over, you have a fever. But if you rest and drink plenty of fluids, it usually will pass. That's why, even though you feel really sick, you usually don't need to contact your doctor. More »