It’s that time again – cold & flu season!
As a school nurse, I treat a variety of illnesses & injuries on a daily basis. My door has been a turnstile of ick, sick, & yuck lately. Seasonal allergies, indoor allergies, & cold & flu viruses are rearing their ugly heads…all at once!
My students (and teachers) are miserable. And to tell you the truth…so am I. Sneezing. Sniffling. Runny noses, sinus pressure & headaches, ear aches, coughing, mucus, wheezing, rumbly tummies, chills & fevers, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea…the list goes on.
One important fact remains…
Any and/or ALL of these symptoms can be caused by viruses. Why is that so important?
Because antibiotics do NOT work on viruses.
Examples of illnesses caused by viruses are:
- Influenza (the flu)
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Most rashes
- Many coughs
Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Treating these illnesses with antibiotics is ineffective & leads to antibiotic resistance. Some viruses, like the flu, pneumonia, & chickenpox can be prevented by getting vaccines.
Some illnesses that do require antibiotic treatment include:
- Strep throat
- Many ear infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Sinus infections
How do we treat viruses, if we can’t kill them with antibiotics???
We treat the symptoms while the virus runs its course.
- Rest – your body may need extra sleep and/or naps while it is fighting an infection.
- Hydrate – drink plenty of fluids (non-sugary/non-caffeinated).
- Treat fever, pain, and/or inflammation – Medications like Ibuprofen can treat all 3 of these symptoms. Read packaging & instructions carefully, as some over the counter medications contain more than one medicine.
- Treat cough & mucus – a different cough medicine should be used for productive cough, to help clear mucus from the airways. A cool-mist humidifier will also help keep mucus thin & soothe irritated nasal passages & throat.
- Treat nausea/vomiting/diarrhea – Replenish electrolytes with Pedialyte or a similar electrolyte solution. Drink water & other clear liquids. Eat light until your stomach feels right.
- For the flu, your doctor may recommend you start taking Tamiflu as a treatment, to possibly lessen symptoms & shorten the course of the virus.
- Non-medicinal treatments – There are a variety of ways to alleviate symptoms that involve no medication at all.
- Warm compresses – for ear pain, stiff neck, head ache, & body aches
- Warm soak – for body aches
- Salt water gargle – for sore throat
- Ginger root tea (honey optional) – for sore throat, cold, flu, & inflammation
- Turmeric milk tea – calming, creamy, warm drink, thought to be effective in treating cold & flu symptoms. Turmeric & the flu.
Here’s a cute video released by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) just for fun: