Dealing with the cold/flu season 101

By: Samuel Smith, Columnist 

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

I love autumn and winter. I love the holidays, the changing weather, being able to break out my jackets and flannel, drinking hot coffee and making soup. But every autumn my allergies get significantly worse and around this time every year, I get sick. It’s like clockwork. However, I’ve learned how to deal with the impending allergies or cold and flu symptoms and what to keep on hand. I’m going to be sharing some of my personal hacks to help with anyone struggling with feeling under the weather. 

Before I say anything, talk to your pharmacist and primary care doctor about what’s best for you. Most of what I use is pretty broad and will work for many people but check with your doctor or pharmacist with any concerns. 

  1. Take allergy medication: I keep two forms of allergy medications on hand – one short-acting and one long-acting. I take the long-acting every morning, 365 days out of the year. I take the short-acting when I know I’m going to be outside a lot that day. I’m an active guy and I’m outside a lot. It sucks when I’m working out and I can’t breathe enough to get a good workout in. I get my medication prescribed by my doctor because he knows which ones interact with my medications. He also knows which allergy medications are best for the allergens in my area and I can get them cheaper through my insurance. Taking allergy medication can help prevent some of the symptoms and let you enjoy more of your free time instead of being stuck inside or feeling sick. Check with your doctor about what medications might be best for you. 
  2. Stock up on cold medications: I keep a couple of over-the-counter cold and cough medications on hand. I can’t take regular cold medicine, so I mostly go holistic for a cold. Many cold and cough medications interact with many common prescription medications, so talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what you can and can’t take. It’s best to keep these on hand before you get sick. The last thing you want is to try finding someone to go to the pharmacy for you when you’re sick. 
  3. Anti-inflammatory medication v. common pain relievers: This is less of a cold and flu thing and more of an everyday thing but I keep two types of pain medications on hand: an anti-inflammatory medication and a medication that isn’t an anti-inflammatory, specifically Tylenol and Aleve. Both these types of medications are good for headaches. If you have a headache from a pressure change, take the anti-inflammatory. If you have a regular headache, take a common pain reliever. Tylenol has also been shown to help with fevers so it’s helpful to have some just in case a fever strikes. Again, talk to your doctor before taking anything. You may also be able to get over-the-counter medications through your doctor for cheaper.
  4. Holistic measures: I keep various holistic things on hand. These are alternative remedies to traditional medicinal options. I keep non-caffeinated tea, peppermint essential oil, honey, saltine crackers, soup, and ginger ale all in stock. For non-caffeinated tea, I find chamomile helps with a sore throat, especially when combined with lemon juice and honey. I find peppermint helps with nausea. I’ve heard ginger tea is also good for nausea but I don’t personally like the taste, so I don’t use ginger. Peppermint essential oil has also been shown to help with blocked sinuses, which is extremely helpful for both allergies and colds. However, peppermint oil exposure to dogs is toxic so be very careful if you have a pet at home. The food is good because I find they’re easy on the stomach, cheap and last forever in the pantry.

These are the things I keep at home to help manage the cold and flu season. It’s especially important this season, as many of the symptoms of the flu mimic COVID-19. While these won’t prevent the flu or a cold, they can help ease the symptoms. Please remember to get your flu vaccine and self-isolate if you’re having any symptoms, as both of those measures will prevent the spread of the flu.

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