Article from Everyday Health
Q: What is good for a cough, congestion, and sore throat for adults?
A: Coughs are treated based on the type of cough it is. Dry coughs, that do not produce mucus, are best treated with a cough suppressant, such as dextromethorphan. However, a wet cough, that is producing mucus, should be treated with an expectorant, such as guaifenesin. Sore throats can be treated with throat lozenges, throat sprays, humidifiers, hot drinks, and warm salt water gargles. Over the counter pain relievers can also be helpful in treating sore throats. Acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are options. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Sinus congestion can be relieved with decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine.
However, decongestants should not be used by people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure). Talk to your doctor before using decongestants if you have any chronic medical conditions. Always read and follow the complete directions and warnings on over the counter medicines and discuss their use with your doctor before taking them. Your doctor is best able to properly evaluate your medical condition and guide your treatment choices based on your specific circumstances. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Sarah Lewis, PharmD
Q: What are medications that can be used for a dry cough?
A: Fluids may help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat. Dry, hacking coughs respond to honey in hot water, tea, or lemon juice. You can try to elevate your head with extra pillows at night to ease a dry cough. Over the counter cough suppressants control or suppress the cough reflex and work best for a dry, hacking cough that keeps you awake. A product with dextromethorphan is best for this type of cough, Delsym or the store brand equivalent contains this ingredient. If you have a dry, hacking cough, ask your doctor about an effective cough suppressant medicine.
Q: I have a cold and have a stuffy nose and a dry or sore throat. What can I do or take so I feel better at work during the day?
A: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases list these strategies that may relieve cold symptoms: Get plenty of rest, drink adequate amount of fluids, gargle with warm salt water, and use cough drops or throat sprays. It’s important to read labels on all over-the-counter therapies and medications. Somecold medications have the same active ingredients, interact with other medications, or should not be used in certain patients. It’s particularly important to consult your physician or healthcare provider before using any therapy, to make sure it’s appropriate for you. This information is solely educational. It’s important for patients to consult their physician or health care provider about any specific question regarding their health and medications, particularly before taking any action.
Q: I often have a sore throat. What can I use as medication to relieve the pain?
A: Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is a condition in which the pharynx becomes inflamed. This results in a scratchy, uncomfortable feeling that can make swallowing difficult. The pharynx is located behind the mouth and nasal cavity and is part of the throat. Pharyngitis can be a result of various causes. Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by a virus. Examples of viruses that may cause pharyngitis include the flu or a cold. However, sometimes pharyngitis can result from a bacterial infection such as strep throat. Viral pharyngitis will need to run its course, but bacterial pharyngitis, such as strep throat, will likely require an antibiotic.
Other causes of pharyngitis include local irritation from things like breathing dry air during the winter or allergies. It is difficult for a patient to determine what type of pharyngitis they have. You may want to contact your physician so that you can be properly evaluated and diagnosed.
Treatment for a sore throat is dependent upon what the cause is. Usually sore throats resolve on their own in approximately a week. The majority of sore throats are caused by viruses such as the common cold. Therefore, there is no cure for the majority of sore throats.
Treatment recommendations include drinking plenty of fluids, getting adequate rest, drinking warm fluids through a straw, sucking on ice chips, using a humidifier andavoiding irritants such as cigarette smoke. You may also want to try using an over the counter throat lozenge or a numbing throat spray or over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), if approved by your physician.
Other individuals find relief from sucking on a frozen popsicle or using a salt water gargle. Keep in mind that if your sore throat is due to a bacterial infection, then your doctor will need to prescribe antibiotics for you. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Jen Marsico, RPh.
Q: I am suffering from persistent blocked nose and sneezing. There is lot of phlegm when I cough.
A: You may want to try some sort of vaporizer and/or a saline nasal spray to help clear your nasal passages. The water vapor from a vaporizer should also help with the phlegm, if it is a dry phlegm. You should also check the color of the phlegm. If it’s clear, white, or pale, the infection may be viral, and antibiotics may not be necessary. If it’s yellow, green, brown, or bloody, or if you are having fevers, chills, chest pains, or have other health problems, you might need antibiotics. In these cases, contact your doctor for the appropriate medication.
Q: What is the best over-the-counter remedy for nasal and ear congestion due to a cold virus? No cough, no fever present.
A: The nose becomes congested when the tissues lining it become swollen. The swelling is due to inflamed blood vessels. Decongestants shrink the blood vessels in the lining of the nose. These medicines only relieve stuffiness, not a runny nose or other symptoms. Oral decongestants like Sudafed or Sudafed PE, work well to help relieve the congestion, both in the nose and ears.
Caution should be used in patients with high blood pressure or heart conditions. Decongestant nasal sprays and drops, like Afrin or Neo-Sinephrine, work very well but should not be used for more than 3 days, because after that time they can make the congestion worse. Rebound congestion will occur if you do not follow the package directions exactly, and this can lead to sinus infections.
Try these steps to thin the mucus, which can help you breathe easier and get nasal secretions back to normal: Use gentle saline nasal sprays (Ocean, AYR). Increase the humidity in the air with a vaporizer or humidifier. Drink extra fluids. Hot tea, broth, or chicken soup may be especially helpful. Keep your head elevated at night when congestion is worst.
Q: How can I get rid of post-nasal drip and a constant cough?
A: Postnasal drip and throat irritation/coughing can be the result of allergies and other medical conditions. Consult your health care provider for proper evaluation and diagnosis. If your symptoms are due to allergies, there are a variety of medicationsavailable, including over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal rinses, prescription medications and corticosteroid sprays. Finding the right medication may take a little experimentation, so it’s essential to work with your doctor to find a treatment option that brings you the greatest relief and meshes with your daily needs.
For postnasal drip, antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays, or Astelin nasal spray are generally effective treatments. Consult your health care provider for specific recommendations. You may also find helpful information at http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/allergy-medications.aspx and http://www.everydayhealth.com/allergies/guide-to-nasal-sprays.aspx
Q: What can you take to eliminate bad breath due to sinusitis?
A: Bad breath can be caused by infections, such as sinusitis, because the nasal discharge located in the back of your throat can give off a bad smell. To help with this type of bad breath, make sure that you talk to your physician and receive treatment if necessary to clear up the infection.
Some general recommendations for preventing or improving bad breath include brushing teeth after eating, flossing once daily at the minimum, brushing the tongue with a toothbrush or use a tongue scraper, cleaning dentures thoroughly, drinking enough water to keep the mouth moist, changing toothbrushes every three to four months, visiting the dentist on a regular basis, and chewing fresh parsley or sucking on a mint. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider or dentist regarding questions you have about your breath.
Q: I wanted to know why do I get swelling on my face in the morning when I wake up? I have sinus problems and no other health issues.
A: Mild swelling or edema of the face in the morning can be a sign of various health problems including allergies, kidney, and liver conditions. Lifestyle factors can also contribute to morning facial edema such as drinking alcohol or lack of sleep. Talk with your physician for diagnosis of the swelling of your face, especially if this is something that came on suddenly. Treatment options will depend upon the diagnosed cause.
Q: Could allergies or a cold be causing repeated adult ear infections?
A: Ear pain is often due to an ear infection (otitis media). Otitis media is a bacterial or viral infection that is often painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluids in the middle ear. The inflammation that leads to an ear infection is often due to a cold, flu or allergy. If you have frequent allergy symptoms, or frequent colds, that often lead to an ear infection, your physician may recommend that you take an antihistamine daily toprevent the allergy symptoms. Over the counter non-drowsy antihistamines include Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine).
An ear infection will often clear up on its own, but if the problem persists for more than a couple of days, or if you are in severe pain, consult your physician. In the meantime, you can manage the pain with over the counter pain medications. There are two types of over the counter medications that may help with ear pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are effective for relieving mild to moderate pain and inflammation associated with ear pain. However, over the counter NSAIDs should be avoided in people who have gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn or stomach ulcers. Patients taking warfarin or other blood thinners should also avoid NSAIDs.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a pain reliever, but it does not help with inflammation. Acetaminophen does not interact with blood thinners or cause bleeding. Patients who have liver disease should not take acetaminophen without consulting their physician.
Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passages. Dilated blood vessels can cause nasal congestion (stuffy nose), or congestion of the tubes that drain fluid from your inner ears, known as Eustachian tubes.
Pseudoephedrine can be taken with NSAIDS or acetaminophen to help reduce ear pain. Consult your physician if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart conditions before taking pseudoephedrine. If over the counter medications fail to alleviate the ear pain, consult your physician to discuss prescription treatment options. Burton Dunaway, PharmD
Q: Are there signs when you are definitely contagious to others when you are ill?
A: One of the most important issues is what is actually causing the illness. You could be contagious from a cold, an infection of some sort, or other health status. There are few ways to know for certain whether you are contagious without going to see a doctor. For example, if you have a problem such as an upper respiratory infection, it can be possible to spread the infection – especially if you have a fever. If you feel ill but do not have a fever, you will probably not spread whatever it is that you have to others. The best way to determine what to do is to check your temperature to see if you have a fever.
Q: Can laryngitis be transferred to another person, like a cold?
A: Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box or vocal cords. It can be caused by colds and the flu, irritation from allergies, acid reflux, and overuse of the voice, such as yelling or cheering. Laryngitis can result in hoarseness, complete loss of voice, sore throat, and/or coughing. Usually laryngitis will only last a few days to a couple of weeks. See your doctor for any hoarseness or laryngitis that lasts more than 2 weeks.
If you develop laryngitis from a cold, you can pass along the cold virus, but the affected person will not necessarily develop laryngitis. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or local pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action.
To help your voice recover, there are some home treatments you can try. Perhaps the most important treatment is resting the voice to give the voice box and vocal cords time to recover. Speaking softly and only when necessary can help. It also may help to avoid smoking, second-hand smoke, and other irritants or allergens. Drinking plenty of fluids, using a humidifier, and soothing the throat with lozenges or salt water gargles are other strategies to speed recovery. While a cold is contagious, laryngitis itself is not.