Fight cold and flu symptoms

Cold and flu symptoms can make you ill enough to keep you from your regular activities for several days. Find out how to relieve them.

How can a cold or the flu be treated?

A cold and the flu are respiratory infections both caused by viruses. Antibiotics are ineffective since they only work against bacteria. The best way to protect against these infections is to focus on prevention (wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, avoid close contact with infected individuals, practise physical distancing, etc.).

One of the immune system's functions is to fight colds and the flu. It is helpful to rest and drink plenty of fluids. You can relieve your symptoms using over-the-counter medications until you get better.


Nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing

You can use an oral decongestant (in pill form) or nasal spray to relieve nasal congestion. Tablets are effective, but can cause side effects (e.g. trembling, palpitations, excitation). Therefore, they should not be taken before bedtime. Insomnia caused by decongestants can be reduced by using a decongestant containing an antihistamine to relieve runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Nasal sprays have the advantage of causing few side effects, but their use must be limited to a maximum of five consecutive days, as they can be habit-forming. Saline nasal sprays, rinses or drops are a good option for the natural relief of nasal symptoms. These products are suitable for people of all ages, including babies and young children.



The active ingredient used to relieve a dry cough is dextromethorphan (DM), which is found in various oral medications in syrup or pill form. If you have lung problems or if you take other medications, it is preferable to consult your pharmacist before taking a product containing DM.

There are other cough syrups available from your pharmacist upon request. Over-the-counter syrups with codeine are generally no more effective than those without. Moreover, they cause drowsiness.

For a moist cough (with secretions), guaifenesin-based syrups can help you expectorate (spit). This medication is sometimes used on its own or sometimes combined with DM or other substances (such as menthol).


Muscle aches, fever, headaches and sore throat

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are useful to relieve all of these symptoms. Due to its effective and safe profile, acetaminophen is often considered the primary choice. Ibuprofen has an increased risk of side effects (digestive and others), and its use is not suitable for everyone. Speak to your healthcare professional before purchasing it over the counter.

For a sore throat, you can also use lozenges. Some of them have an anesthetic effect that "numbs" the throat. Make sure to follow the maximum recommended amount. Ask your pharmacist for help in choosing among the wide range of lozenges available on the market.

Various products combine several medications in a single formulation. Some may not be suitable for you because of your age, health, medical history, and other medications you take.

Always speak to your pharmacist if you have questions about a cold, the flu and the ways to relieve symptoms.


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Fight cold and flu symptoms

Cold and flu symptoms can make you ill enough to keep you from your regular activities for several days. Find out how to relieve them.