Friday, September 11, 2015

Cold Meds

---Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  Belladonna has a cold and this is a quick guide for her convenience.---

Combination drugs:  (Examples; Nyquil, Robitussin, Triaminic) treat multiple symptoms including symptoms you might not have.  Consequently they might expose you to avoidable side-effects.  Offered in many different "compoundings".  The buyer must be sharp enough to match compounding to the symptoms they have. One complication is that symptoms change as the cold progresses as discussed near the bottom of this essay.  And it is not always easy to be sharp when you feel like crap.

Painkiller (aka analgesic):  Most colds are fairly painless.  Flu is a different kettle of fish.  It can be hard to tell the difference when you first come down with symptoms.  One downside of most painkillers is that they also reduce fever.  A moderate fever is a good thing for beating virus.  A severe fever (+103 F) probably merits a trip to the Heath Clinic. Take pain killers with ample amounts (+12 oz) of water and no alcohol. Top Picks
  • Acetaminophen (8 Hr arthritis formulation)  Will not reduce inflammation.
  • Ibuprofen (6 Hr) Will reduce inflammation.  More likely to cause stomach upset than acetaminophen
  • Naproxen (12 Hr) Will reduce inflammation.  More likely to cause stomach upset than acetaminophen
  • DO NOT USE ASPIRIN due to risk of Reye's syndrome if you are under 25 years old.
Decongestant:  This helps you drain when you are stuffy and can reduce the likelihood of secondary, bacterial infections.  They can make you jittery and make it tougher to sleep.  There can also be a rebound effect.  They function by shrinking the capillaries in your nose and sinuses and raise your blood pressure. Decongestants combine well with "expectorants" like guaifenesin.  Top Picks
  • Pseudoephedrine (Need to show driver's license to buy.  Available in extended release)
  • Phenylephedrine 
  • Various nose sprays, including some with cortisteroids.  Pricy, but so far they look awesome.  One drawback with any spray is that they do not penetrate well when stuffy...kind of a Catch-22.
  • In a pinch, caffeine, hot showers, sleeping upright in a recliner can work.  Eating foods made with hot peppers (good excuse to eat Mexican, Thai or Szechuan food) works for some.  Cough drops with mentholyptus work for many people.
Antihistamines: Dries up super-runny mucus.  Some "colds" are allergies and antihistamines are the hot ticket for those "colds"  Older ones make everybody drowsy.  Even the newer, 24 hour ones like loratadine make some people spacy.  OK for early stage of cold when if feels like your nose is a water faucet... and if you do not have to drive anywhere or do anything that requires staying awake.  The antihistamine is why Nyquil knocks you out.  One guy I know from high school fell out of a chair lift at a ski resort after taking an antihistamine.  Top Picks
  • Old style, Diphenhydramine (Bendryl)....caution, will make you drowsy
  • Newer type, Loratadine
Cough Suppressant:  According to Wikipedia, there is no good evidence that cough suppressants reducing coughing.  Top Picks
  • Any hard candy or cough drop that you like
  • Hot tea or lemonade
  • A good movie that will distract you.
Symptom progression:
  • A typical progression for a cold might be a scratchy throat, then nose running like a faucet.  (Antihistamine)
  • Then your lymphnodes become engorged as they recognize the virus and go into overdrive producing antibodies.  You might get tension headaches due to chin-lifting, a response to the large, tender lymphnodes.  You feel like crap.  (Arthritis formulation, 8 hour acetaminophen + antihistamine)
  • Your nose becomes stuffy.  You want to sleep.  You have a sour throat (Decongestant + Expectorant, acetaminophen, lots of liquids, chicken soup)
  • Things start to clear up but your nose hurts and you develop a cough that brings up bits of cookie dough out of your lungs. (Saline nose spray, Kleenex)
  • Dry, unproductive cough (Your favorite cough drops, tea with honey and lemon)

Sometimes the "cold" morphs into a sinus infection.  See a doctor.  Symptoms may include

  • Drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
  • Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Pain increases when head is when you sit up
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Cough, which may be worse at night
Other signs and symptoms can include:
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
Sometimes a "cold" morphs into bronchitis/pneumonia.  The difference between the two is academic.  See a doctor.  Symptoms may include:
  • Fever (i.e., running a temperature), sweating and shaking chills
  • Cough, which may produce phlegm
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

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