Are you ready for flu season?

Health advice from DR. Louise

Several years ago, I spent one long, miserable week in January in bed with influenza while my husband was out of town helping out his elderly parents. I coughed, I sneezed, my nose ran, and it felt like every single atom in my body HURT.

By the end of the week I’d used up all of my cough and cold medicines, with no way to get more. Ever since then, I check my medicine cabinet before flu season hits to make sure I have PLENTY of my favorite remedies on hand.

Are you ready for flu season?

Here’s what I have in my medicine cabinet:

1.         Delsym® for cough.

Delsym® is a concentrated form of dextromethorphan (DM), the same active ingredient as in Robitussin DM®. Each Delsym® dose lasts for 12 hours, so taking a dose before leaving for work lasts all day. Delsym® is almost as powerful as codeine against a cough, but since it doesn’t cause drowsiness it’s much safer to use when driving a car or working around machinery.

2.         Tylenol® for fever and headache.

I prefer taking extra-strength 500mg acetaminophen tablets for headache and fever over ibuprofen or naproxen because acetaminophen is less irritating to my stomach, especially if I’m not able to keep anything down but chicken soup.

To protect my liver, I stay within the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen, which is 8 extra-strength tablets (4 grams) daily. For those over 70 years old the recommended maximum dose is 3.1 grams, or 6 extra-strength 500mg tablets.

3.         Aleve® for body aches.

My worst influenza symptom is severe muscle aches. The last time I had the flu I SWEAR that a ninja snuck into my bedroom while I was asleep and whaled on me with their nun chucks.

I prefer non-prescription naproxen (Aleve®) over its cousin ibuprofen because naproxen lasts twice as long (8-12 hours). I hated waking up in the middle of the night when my ibuprofen wore off after only 5 hours.

Naproxen and ibuprofen work better for body aches than acetaminophen, but if you take them while dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, they can harm your kidneys, and they cause stomach irritation, even ulcers. People who take blood thinners like warfarin, Pradaxa®, Xarelto®, Eliquis® or Plavix® (clopidogrel) need to be especially cautious to avoid stomach bleeding. To reduce your risk, always take them with a full glass of water or some food.

4.         Sudafed® for sinus and nasal congestion.

I only use the ORIGINAL version of Sudafed® that contains pseudoephedrine. This is NOT the Sudafed® PE stocked on the grocery shelf, but the one you show your identification for, because Sudafed® PE is not nearly as effective. I prefer the red coated 30mg tablets over the white 60mg tablets because I have trouble sleeping when taking the higher dose.

5.         Actifed® for runny nose and sneezing.

I learned about Actifed® as a hospital pharmacist years ago. We’d get an urgent call from the surgery department, requesting we send something ASAP to dry up the runny nose of a surgeon or scrub nurse. Today there’s prescription-only Atrovent® nasal spray, which dries up a runny nose in a flash. Back then, we’d send a couple of tablets of Actifed®, a surprisingly effective combination of the antihistamine triprolidine and the decongestant pseudoephedrine.

Pseudoephedrine relieves stuffiness while triprolidine stops the drips and decreases sneezing. Triprolidine has another benefit: unlike older antihistamines like diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine, it rarely causes drowsiness, so those surgeons didn’t have to worry about nodding off in the middle of a doing a hip replacement. Because Actifed® contains pseudoephedrine, it is currently available only with identification.

6.         NyQuil® for night-time multi-symptom relief.

While I prefer single ingredient products to treat my specific symptoms, if my husband gets sick he insists on “something to knock me out, so I can get some rest.”

The green original flavor and red cherry flavor original Nyquil® contained 5 active ingredients: acetaminophen for fever and aches, dextromethorphan for cough, pseudoephedrine for stuffy nose and sinus pressure, and both the antihistamine doxylamine and 10% alcohol to help you sleep.

After pseudoephedrine was banished behind the counter in 2006, the original Nyquil® formula changed. Nyquil® has several variations available and has replaced the original pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine. Nyquil® Severe Cold and Flu is the version that is closest to its original formula.

7.         Apple juice to prevent dehydration.

Instead of drinking Gatorade when replacing fluids and minerals lost from vomiting and diarrhea, apple juice is an effective and much tastier option.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 40-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Check out her NEW website TheMedicationInsider.com for daily tips on how to take your medicine safely.

Ó2021 Louise Achey

 

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