Dealing with Colds and Head Drainage–Cold Medicines 101, an unofficial blog guide
I’ll elaborate on this one as much as I know because I talk to person after person who does not treat themselves for a cold before it gets so bad they are miserable. I say, “What are you taking?” The vast majority of the time, they are taking nothing because “they don’t like how all that stuff makes them feel.”
Okay, lesser of two evils approach here, people.
People say to me all the time, “I guess I’m just going to have to see a doctor”. Okay. 1. The doctor has no magic wand. You do have to take meds for colds if you go see him, too. 2. If you take them correctly, cold meds won’t make you feel wierd. 3. There are very good ones today that are cheap and effective. 4. Most people have no clue what to buy or how to use them. It’s a shame. Get smart. Times are tough.
So, let’s review over-the-counter meds, shall we? The docs will be starting with these. Yes, it helps.
Disclaimer: DON’T TAKE THESE WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR DOCTOR. I AM NOT A PHYSICIAN, THIS IS JUST A COMMON SENSE APPROACH to some over the counter cold meds. Seek package inserts for warnings, cautions, and precautions.
So, “there is so much on the shelf” you “don’t know what to take”, so let’s learn. You really need to know this stuff.
Keep on hand all through the winter:
- plain nasal decongest*ants (dries up runny noses, relieves pressure)
- antihist*imes (reduces how much of that runny stuff your body makes, relieves pressure, and symptoms of post nasal drip: cough, sniffles, pressure)
- Tylenol: XS if you want, but plain is my preference, not to treat other symptoms besides pain
- Naproxen: 12 pain, swelling, inflammation relief (really helps, and can be added to Tylenol doses)
- Buy as needed: fresh cough medicine. I don’t keep this on hand because liquids are easier to contaminate. Buy fresh as needed and get a new bottle after colds if it sits for a while.
With these simple and inexpensive over the counter me*ds, you probably won’t get the same sinus infection or strep throat you got two years ago when you “started feeling this way”. Just because you needed an antibiotic then to kick it doesn’t mean you’ll need one now IF you treat early with symptoms and every day for at least a week until symptoms are given time to get under control. One day isn’t going to give you a good idea.
HOW THEY WORK (as best as I can understand and explain):
Decongestants: Sudefed (or the new phenylephr*ine hyrdrochl*oride variations). Generic is fine. It does NOT make you drowsy. It MAY keep you up at night. Take your last does by 2PM and you are fine. Added as the letter “D” to most medicines (example” Clarit*inD). BE CAREFUL NOT TO DOUBLE UP. There is a good explanation of what it does here. You should take it in conjunction with an antihistamine if you are having a lot of drainage.
Drop the “D” if you are having trouble winding down for sleep and instead use in the morning one plain decongestant. I use generics in our house. My box says “maximum strength nasal decongestant PE”. It’s generally a small, red pi*ll.
Many cold meds, syrups, and cough syrups add this D in as well…I do not buy things mixed together. I treat one symptom at a time, then I can drop off what I don’t need when that symptom leaves. This helps me feel better faster and eliminates meds we don’t need after the symptoms get better, but do what works for you.
As a note, I do not add in things for sleep aids (Benadry*l, for example, or Tyleno*lPM). If you take meds to help you sleep at night, that’s up to you, but this routine usually lets me feel good enough that I don’t personally need help getting to sleep.
Antihistim*ines: This blocks your body’s natural response to allergens. Even if you don’t have “allergies”, if you have a cold, you need to take one a day for about a week at least. I should say that twice I hear it so often–you don’t have to be “allergic” to anything to take a decongestant and deal with allergies…especially if you live in the midEast. Antihisti*mes will help your body react less to environmentals (leaves, pollen, mold, etc.) and you’ll make less mucous to have to try to dry up to relieve pressure causing headaches and facial pain. Edit: as a reply to a comment made in the comment section, while these don’t specifically relief facial pain, reducing reactivity to allergens will cause your body to produce less mucous, hopefully causing less pressure on the sinus cavities from mucos. (Hopefully I have rephrased this better on edit).
Even if you don’t have a “cold” yet, if you are sneezing a lot, have a drippy nose, are going to be around a lot of women dousing in perfume at a gathering, are going to be on a hayride, or are experiencing a lot of facial pressure (cheek or forehead), get started right now.
I use the generic clarit*in available now…it’s very economical at Wal*Mart and comes packaged in a bottle of 60 tables so that I don’t have to punch it out of layers of plastic. I bought 2 for 1 last week. Glory! Keep it on hand.
Pain: For the headache resulting, you need to take the above two most likely, and also add Tylenol and possibly even a Naproxen (which deals with swelling and inflammation and will get you 12 hours of relief, but Tylenol deals with the actual headache pain faster, so I usually go on and take both together to get on top of it. Take a little nap if you can and all this and you’ll feel better when you wake).
When to stop taking meds:
- if, in the next 4-5 days, you get so dry your nose is bleeding when you blow, stop the decongestant. Also, make sure you are running a clean humidifier if you have the heat on a lot. Add saline spray to moistion nasal passages as many times a day as you want 4-5 is ideal. Buy fresh each season. It’s cheap, it works.
- If you aren’t in pain, stop the pain reliefs for headache.
- When you stop producing a lot of mucous, your throat clears, you aren’t coughing, stop the decongestant, the next day or two, try dropping off the antihistamine and see what happens (unless you will be in a holiday crowd or out shopping with a lot of intense smells.) If you’ll be out for the day, take meds with you, just in case.
Still have symptoms?
Still having drainage and a lot of throat/face pain? You can add antihistamine sprays…I think these ARE prescription, but they do help a lot.
Need to talk a lot in the evening, or can’t breathe well enough to sleep but don’t want to take the Sudafed? Try Afrin nasal spray following package directions. You’ll want to try to wean off this in about a week, but it will let you sleep, sing, give a talk and works very fast. (Commenter pharmacists says 2-3 days, but I generally need it longer than that for colds that last a week).
Coughing? Add a 12 hour cough syrup, plain (not adding antihistamines or decongestants in the mix if you are already taking them, as you should be for coughs related to post nasal drip [drainage, which most coughs are unless they are chronic]). I like Dels*ym for a serious cough (lasts 12 hours), or plain Tuss*in (I like grape Robitussin) for a mild tickle. There are probably other good over the counter ones…ask your pharmacist.
In conclusion, if you aren’t doing these things for 5 days, you will probably have to go to the doctor, you will get a fever from that stuff setting up in your head and face and cheeks because you have let them sit in there and start to grow nasty varmints. He will add all this, and a antib*iotic, and it will take you a lot longer to get better. If you are a woman, you will be dehydrated some too, which doesn’t bode well for the female body.
So yes, treat early, be smart.
A note about herbal remedies: There are a lot of herbal remedies out there I have not yet tried, don’t know a lot about, and the science may or may not be strong. Talk to people who have if you wish. Try them if you will, realize they may also have interactions with other things you are taking if you try to mix and match. Let you doctor know you are taking them. Whatever you do, however you do it… be smart and treat that drainage.
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