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Over-the-Counter Flu Treatments


By Staff Writer

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The Flu

The flu (influenza) is a viral infection with symptoms ranging from mild to severe and may include fever, headache, muscle pain, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, weakness and fatigue. Flu outbreaks occur most often during the winter months and symptoms usually last for about a week. The flu can lead to dangerous complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, especially in the elderly or those with preexisting illnesses.

Relieving symptoms

Over-the-counter medications are the most common treatment for the flu. They don’t kill the virus, but can help ease the symptoms. You can choose from a large array of treatment options. Many products have multiple ingredients to treat multiple symptoms. These are fine to use if you have all of the symptoms listed on the product, but if you have only one or two, these provide unnecessary medications that don’t provide any benefit and may increase your risk of side effects or drug interactions. If you decide not to take a multi-symptom flu relief medication, consider the specific types of medicines used to treat each symptom:
  • Cough drops can be used to relieve sore throats.
  • Cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan (Robitussin®) can be used to calm dry coughs.
  • Antihistamines (Benadryl® or Chlor-Trimeton®) can be used for runny noses, sneezing and watery eyes.
  • Pain relievers acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol®), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®) can be used to reduce fever, aches and pains. Do not use aspirin in children or teens with the flu because it could cause serious problems or even death.

 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 14, 2000, Vol. 49 (RR-03).Drug Facts and Comparisons. Facts & Comparisons, 2006.Flu Information. http://www.fda.gov. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Last accessed 11/14/2006.Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition. Merck & Co., 1997.This response prepared 7/2/2001.This information updated 11/14/2006.

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