Self care guide for influenza

Self Care Guide for Influenza
Written by Clinicians of University Health Services at University Park
Any questions please feel free to contact PSH Student
Health Services: 717-948-6015
Following these basic guidelines can help ease your discomfort
and speed your recovery.

Increase your fluid intake. Drinking more fluids will help
you stay hydrated and better control your temperature.
Fluids such as water, sports drinks and clear broth soups are
generally well tolerated.
Get plenty of rest. Stay in bed and rest as much as
Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based hand
sanitizers after coughing, sneezing and wiping your nose to
reduce the spread of the virus.
Isolate yourself in your room or home until at least 24
hours after fever has cleared without the use of fever-reducing
medications. This means that your temperature
should be below 100 degrees for at least this time period.
For fever, chills and body aches use an NSAID (nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen (generic
Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (generic Aleve). The major side
effect of NSAIDs is irritation of the stomach, occasionally
leading to gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. Stop the
medication if you have stomach upset or pain. Consider taking
acetaminophen (Tylenol), instead, for fever and pain if you
have stomach upset.
For stuffy nose and congestion use a decongestant.
The only effective oral decongestant currently available is
pseudoephedrine. You must ask the pharmacist for this
medication (regulated because of illegal use to make
methamphetamine), although no prescription is required.
Decongestants purchased off the shelf contain phenylephrine
and are much less effective. Oral decongestants may produce
rapid heart rate, blood pressure elevation, nervous stimulation,
and restlessness which may interfere with sleep.
An alternative to the oral medication is a decongestant nose
spray oxymetazoline hydrochloride(generic Afrin). This can
rapidly relieve nasal obstruction. When the decongestant effect
of the drug wears off, nasal obstruction rapidly returns.
Therefore, this can be very effective, but limit use to 3 days
(if used twice daily) or 5-6 nights (if only used at bedtime)
Overuse by just a few days can result in “rebound” obstruction
and mucosal damage.
For runny nose, sneezing and cough try an antihistamine.
The most effective antihistamines are first generation, although
they tend to cause drowsiness. Examples of first generation
antihistamines are brompheniramine (generic for DimeTapp),
*chlorpheniramine (generic for Chlor-Trimeton and Singlet),
*diphenhydramine (generic for Benadryl), and *doxylamine
(generic for NyQuil and Alka-Seltzer Plus Night-Time Cold
The newer (non-sedating) antihistamines do not appear to
have the same degree of effectiveness for treating colds.
Examples are *Loratadine (Claritin), Fexofenadine (Allegra –
prescription required), and *Certirizine (Zyrtec).
For cough you can try a cough suppressant. Cough
suppressants are natural narcotics, like codeine, and synthetic
narcotics, like dextromethorphan (DM). They act on the brain
to depress the cough reflex center. Their effectiveness in
patients with chronic cough has been demonstrated in
controlled studies but there is little published information on
their effectiveness in coughs associated with colds
. Cough
suppressants can produce gastrointestinal discomfort but
otherwise have few side effects. In normal healthy people with
good cough reflexes, cough suppressants are safe.
Drug interactions may occur with DM and certain antidepressants.
If you are on an antidepressant, discuss this with
your provider.
For sore throat or nasal congestion consider using a saline
rinse. Various nasal saline rinse kits are available commercially
or you can make your own saline by mixing ½ teaspoon of salt
and 8 ounces of warm water in a clean container:
For the nose: Place the above mixture in a reusable sinus rinse
bottle or draw up into a nasal bulb syringe. The most
convenient way to perform a sinus rinse is in the shower or
over a sink.
For the throat: Swish and spit
Keeping a throat lozenge, cough drop, or hard candy in your
mouth will stimulate your saliva and help soothe your throat.


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