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Winter health | Flu season

What options do we have to help us fight the cold and flu?

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Thursday, December 6, 2018, 4:12 PM - Tis the season for spreading peace and joy – and the cold and flu!

No one wants to be gifted your germs and then sidelined with nasty aches, fever and congestion for the next few weeks or worse yet, over the holidays, so stay home if you’re feeling sick.  Be assured no one is impressed with your dedication when you drag you and your flu to the office!

Being exposed to office sickies is definitely bad for our health but it’s bad for business too. According to Canadian studies coming to work sick costs employers billions of dollars annually in productivity losses, yet 83 per cent refuse to miss work or school while experiencing flu-like symptoms.

One in five actually ignore their symptoms altogether! Well, taking care of business at work and at home means taking care of yourself and treating symptoms, especially a wet cough and mucus buildup which can severely get in the way of your day. And your nights too – getting proper rest is literally impossible when the nasal passages fill up with mucous and the hellish coughing won’t abate.


Ditch the misery and find relief with over-the-counter remedies that can treat nasty and annoying symptoms of both the flu and cold. While they have overlapping symptoms, the severity is what sets the two apart. Flu symptoms are typically more intense, appear quickly and totally wipe you out.

According to Rexall pharmacist Amit Joshi, if you have a fever due to a cold, you can treat it by taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Reach for lozenges to help soothe a sore throat. “Stuffy or runny nasal congestion can be treated with a decongestant, while a cough can be treated with an expectorant, such as Guaifenesin, and of course plenty of fluids,” Joshi says.

For the unlucky ones hit with a flu nightmare, prevent its spread by covering your mouth when sneezing and staying home, says Joshi. “Make sure you’re getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and also treating cold-like symptoms – for a fever, or general pain, use acetaminophen/ibuprofen, and for a wet cough, use an expectorant.”

For treating chest congestion and wet cough from the common cold, guaifenesin is an expectorant that helps loosen mucous and makes it easier to cough up, says Joshi. “Guaifensin helps to thin the mucous in the chest making it easier to clear.”  

Actually, mucus fighters flourish on drug store shelves, but Mucinex extended-release bi-layer tablets contain more guaifenesin than any other expectorants on the Canadian market. Guaifenesin is used to treat the symptoms of chest congestion caused by the common cold by thinning and loosening mucus in the airways, clearing congestion and making breathing easier.  

Other supportive treatments for a chesty cough are drinking plenty of fluids and using a humidifier, which helps phlegm in the respiratory tract to become thinner and easier to move out of the lungs, says Joshi. A netti pot uses saline to irrigate the upper sinuses, and can reduce the symptoms of a wet cough.  

Joshi says that the cold and flu are viruses so antibiotics will not help. “If taken earlier enough, within the first two days of getting the flu, an antiviral such as Tamiflu may be given to limit the duration and severity of the flu.”

Meanwhile, according to Bryce Wylde, an alternative health expert, educator and practitioner at wyldeabouthealth.com, staying hydrated is essential to diminishing cold and flu symptoms, and when it comes to eating, follow your intuition. If you’re hungry, eat but not too much, and preferably micronutrient rich foods like soup. “There is some research that suggests chicken soup made with the whole chicken is helpful to boost immunity because of the bone marrow constituents.”

Skip dairy since it’s mucous forming adding to an already increased mucous secretion, and stay away from sugar, says Wylde, especially when you’re sick as sugar will suppress your natural killer cells whose job it is to eat up viruses and bacteria, and delay your recovery. 

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