TREATMENTS FOR VIRAL UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS (COLDS AND INFLUENZA)
The treatment and management of colds and influenza mainly involves treating your symptoms, though they ordinarily resolve on their own. If your overall health is compromised, a cold or influenza can worsen whatever condition you have, particularly diabetes and chronic heart and lung diseases. Occasionally these viral respiratory infections grow into more serious conditions like ear or sinus infections or pneumonia.
THE GOALS OF TREATMENT ARE THREEFOLD:
Make yourself comfortable while the illness runs its course.
Manage other conditions so they do not worsen.
Prevent the virus infection from setting up complications.
Treatment involves the following:
Alternative and complementary therapies
There are no surgical procedures for the treatment of colds and influenza.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)
Colds and influenza will set you back for a while, but ordinarily they resolve within a week or so, and you can get back to your usual schedule. For yourself and for others around you, it's a good idea to isolate yourself for the first few days of your acute respiratory illness; this will help keep its spread to a minimum.
If you are basically healthy, it makes little difference to the disease what you do while it is running its course, but you'll feel better if you take it easy. On the other hand, if you are elderly or chronically ill, taking extra care will help prevent the disease from spreading or worsening your other conditions; even a cold, and certainly influenza, can put you at greater risk of heart or respiratory failure. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar balance will need attention. If you have heart or chronic respiratory disease, increased medication or other treatments may be required to compensate for the added stress of the acute illness.
General Guidelines for Managing Colds and Influenza
Get plenty of rest and stay warm. This helps give your body a chance to focus its energy on combating the disease. Also, be sure to eat well and provide your body with the proper nutrition it needs to help fight off the infection.
For more information on eating a healthful diet,click here.
Managing Respiratory Congestion
Keep your airways clear of secretions, which will increase during your acute illness and could lead to pneumonia. If you smoke or have chronic lung disease, you will not handle these secretions well. There are several ways to help rid your airways of excess secretions:
Humidification – cold mist, steam, and other ways of increasing the water content of the air you breathe (humidity) will decrease the stickiness of the secretions and allow you to cough them up more easily.
Coughing – as long as there is something coming up, coughing is necessary. Don't overdo cough suppressants like dextromethorphan or codeine.
Expectorants – various over-the-counter (like glyceryl guaiacolate) and prescription (like SSKI) preparations also reduce the stickiness of your secretions.
Postural drainage – for more advanced chronic lung disease, patients are often put in a variety of head down positions that use gravity to bring secretions up from the lungs to where they can be coughed up. If you are this sick, a professional respiratory therapist can teach you how to do these maneuvers.
A fever is one way your body fights infection. Viruses don't do as well at temperatures over 100 degrees F, but if you are basically healthy you can handle temperatures up to 104 degrees F with only moderate discomfort. Aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen reduce fever while they are relieving the aching and headache it causes. Other pain relievers do not lower fevers.
Soaking in a lukewarm bath or swimming pool will also make you feel better. Warm swimming pool temperatures around 80 degrees F are still well below your body temperature. This is a good way to lower a fever in a child.
There are many acupuncture points which can be used both to treat and prevent colds and Influenza. At the time of acute illness acupuncture is a treatment option to help manage symptoms and decreas the duration of the illness.
If you suffer from chronic colds and influenza every year acupuncture can be used to strengthen the immune system. In this case it is best to do a series of immune system treatments before the cold and flu season hits every year.
Self-care is the best (and really, only) way to cope with the flu or a cold. Find out what to do for each condition, and how you can best get back on your feet.