Self-Care Strategies for Influenza
Basic over-the-counter medication and supplies include acetaminophen 500 mg.- Tylenol Extra Strength (2 tablets every 6 hours) or ibuprofen - Advil/Motrin (200 mg tablets - 2 tablets every 4 hours with food), cough suppressants/throat lozenges, tissues, hand sanitizer.
Advice and instructions for the use of pseudoephedrine (Sudafed -nasal decongestant) and guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin, tussin), an expectorant which loosens cough and thins secretions, will be provided per individual patient.
Taking acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen to control fever and body aches will make the illness more bearable as your body fights the virus. These OTC medications may be taken regularly throughout the course of the illness to “control” the symptoms.
Be careful not to exceed the daily recommended dosage for acetaminophen (Tylenol ES) and ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin). These drugs are often mixed in with other cough, cold and flu remedies you may also be taking.
The maximum amount of acetaminophen (Tylenol ES) for adults is 1 gram (1000 mg) per dose and 4 grams (4000 mg/24 hours). This would be 8 extra strength tablets of acetaminophen (Tylenol) in 24 hours.
For ibuprofen the daily dose should not exceed 2.4 grams (2,400 mg/24 hours) – This would be 12 tablets of ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) in 24 hours.
Aspirin should NOT be used for treatment of influenza symptoms.
Increasing your fluid intake is an important part of any treatment plan when dealing with influenza. Choose water, juice, tea and warm soups to prevent dehydration and to help keep your mucous secretions thin and easier to handle. This is an essential part of your treatment plan and something you can control.
Bed rest is critical if you're diagnosed with the flu. Not only will you avoid transmitting this highly contagious illness to others, you'll help your immune system better fight off the infection.
Drinking lots of fluids, gargling with salt water (made by combining a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of salt), sucking on throat lozenges and hard candy can often be helpful for easing the pain of a sore throat. Your use of Tylenol or Ibuprofen will help you in this controlling this symptom as well. An additional supplement, or herbal remedy, available in local stores is called “Throat Coat.” This organic tea can provide temporary relief of sore throat pain.
Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) come in many different doses and forms -- pills, tablets, capsules, or syrups. Decongestants are used to open the mucous membranes in the nose, help with the stuffy nose symptom, and help sinuses and nasal passages to drain. They are very effective for most people but need to be taken properly and with the correct dosing. Some people are sensitive to decongestant (keeping them awake or making their heart race). Therefore, speak to your health provider to determine if it is a safe treatment option for you.
The regular and correct application of a Saline nasal spray into the nasal passageways is a non- pharmacological way to help with nasal congestion and secretions.
Cough and Chest Secretions
There are many different ways to help control cough and chest secretions. A main pharmacological ingredient utilized in medicines is called guaifenesin and dextromethorphan. You will find one or both of these ingredients in OTC medicines like Mucinex, Mucinex DM, Robitussin (tussin) and Robitussin DM (tussin DM), as well as other “mixture” medications available over-the-counter. This medicine helps to thin out your secretions (along with the extra fluids you are taking!) and helps to decrease or control your cough. Read your labels carefully and know the “active” ingredients in the products you are purchasing. A cough suppressant, such as dextromethorphan, is also often utilized in OTC products.
Other non-pharmacological means to help a cough and thin nasal and chest secretions include increasing your fluid intake, sleep with the head of your bed elevated, and the use of cough drops.
Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Generally these medications are not necessary for the average person with influenza but may be used in certain cases, where the person is at higher risk for complications. Laboratory testing on the (H1N1) virus so far indicates that it is susceptible (sensitive) to Tamiflu and Relenza. Influenza antiviral drugs work best when started soon after illness onset (within 48 hours). The decision to use antiviral medication will be made on a case by case basis and may be limited to those at higher risk for complications.
What If I Don't Want to Take Medication?
- Rubbing your chest with an aromatic preparation like Vicks can make you feel better and less congested.
- Different herbal teas have different soothing properties. Try mint tea if your cold comes with an upset stomach; anise tea is good for colds. Try ‘Throat Coat” as mention above.
- Take a steamy shower. It can help clear congestion. Or heat a tea kettle or pot of water to boiling on your stove, turn off the flame, drape a towel in a tent over your head and the kettle, and inhale the steam until it subsides. This also relieves your cough by moistening your dry throat.
- Lubricate your nose. If you've been blowing your nose a lot, it's probably pretty sore. So lubricate your nostrils frequently to decrease irritation. Applying vaseline or petroleum jelly to the nostril area can be helpful.
- If a chesty cough or tight chest is a problem at night, avoid sleeping completely flat. Sleeping propped up on two or three pillows may do a great deal to help make breathing easier.
- Most fever is beneficial, causes no problems, and helps the body fight off infections. The main reason for treating a fever is to increase comfort. Wear light clothing and keep the room cool. Try taking a lukewarm bath or sponging off with a cool cloth. Contact Health Services if your fever rises to 104 degrees or stays at or above 101 degrees for more than three days.
Please contact the Health Center at 740- 587-6200 if you have any questions or concerns.