Harmattan: Facts About Cold, Flu And Allergy Treatments

The harmattan season is in full swing and we need to prepare ourselves for the health challenges that come with it. The season is usually hot, dry and with dusty winds. It brings desert-like weather conditions: lowers humidity, dissipates cloud cover, prevents rainfall formation and sometimes creates big clouds of dust or sand which can result in violent dust storms. This drop in humidity can result I serious nose bleeds for some people and the harsh weather can also cause catarrh, cough, pains or headache for others. In fact, as individuals vary so does the effects of harmattan of them. The three classes of pain and fever treatments available over the counter (OTC) are aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, which are the cause of colds and the flu. However, bacterial infections that can follow viral infections, for example, infections of the ears and sinuses, may be treated with antibiotics. Nasal decongestants narrow the blood vessels in the nose, thereby preventing fluid from leaking and the lining from swelling. These can be used for short-term relief in older children and adults. Analgesic/antipyretic medications are often sold in combination with other ingredient(s) to treat cold/flu/allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are commonly used to block the histamine effect that causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction, including swelling, congestion, irritation, and itching. “First generation” antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) have been in use longer, are less expensive, and are more sedating (prone to cause drowsiness) than the newer, “second generation” antihistamines (fexofenidine [Allegra], loratidine [Claritin], etc.), which have minimal sedative effects. Codeine and hydrocodone are narcotic oral cough suppressants that require a doctor’s prescription. Dextromethorphan (Tussin P) is an oral cough suppressant that is available over the counter. Oral expectorant like Pectol and Stepsils are used to increase the leaking of fluid out of the lung tissue and into the airways. There is no conclusive evidence that mega-doses of vitamin C prevent colds or decrease the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Aspirin-containing medicines should never be used for children and teenagers with influenza, chickenpox, or other viral illnesses. Every year, millions of people use over-the-counter (OTC) products to relieve nasal stuffiness and congestion, sneezing, runny noses, sore throat, and cough. The common causes of these symptoms include the viruses that cause the common cold, influenza virus, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and sinus infections (sinusitis). Viral infections can also cause headache, body aches, fatigue, and sometimes fever. Hay fever symptoms can also include itchy eyes, nose, and throat, and watery eyes. To benefit from OTC products for cold, flu, and allergy, it is important to understand (1) the condition causing the symptoms, (2) the predominant symptom(s) one wishes to relieve, and (3) the active ingredient(s) in the product. Some OTC products contain a single active ingredient medication to relieve one symptom. Many others contain a combination of two, three, and even four active ingredient medications to treat several symptoms at once. Selecting the right product can be difficult at times. Here we have categorized products for cold/flu/allergy according to the predominant symptoms they relieve: headaches, body aches, fever, and flu-like symptoms, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing cough and sore throat Since cold and flu sufferers usually experience several symptoms, products containing medication combinations provide convenience. Therefore, you may need to take only one product as compared with two to four products. You also may need to stock fewer items in the medicine cabinet. Nevertheless, it is preferable to take products that contain only those medications you need for relieving the symptoms that are present, and you may not need products designed to relieve multiple symptoms at once. This prevents the ingestion of unnecessary medications and reduces the chances of side effects. It is also easier to adjust the dose of a single ingredient medicine to maximize relief of a predominant symptom and minimize side effects. Nasal congestion, sneezing, and runny nose are common symptoms of a cold caused by a virus. The viruses that cause colds induce inflammation that increases the leakage of fluid from the blood vessels into the lining of the nose and even into the nose. This causes swelling of the lining of the nose, obstructing the flow of air, and a runny nose. Symptoms of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, are caused by allergens. Allergens are tiny particles that cause cells in the lining of the nose and the airways of the lungs to release histamine and other chemicals. Histamine and these other chemicals are responsible for the leakage of fluid, runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion, as well as the itching of the eyes. Cold symptoms usually resolve in one to two weeks whether treated or not. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, which are the cause of colds. However, bacterial infections that can follow viral infections, for example, infections of the ears and sinuses, may be treated with antibiotics. For the temporary relief of cold symptoms, plenty of oral fluids such as broth, chicken soup, and tea with lemon and honey and humidification of room air are safe remedies for people of all ages. Saline (salt and water) sprays and mists can also safely provide soothing moisture to dry, irritated nasal passages. In infants and young children, saline nose drops and clearing the nose with a nasal syringe can temporarily relieve nasal obstruction. Allowing infants and young children to sleep upright in car seats also improves the drainage of nasal secretions. For short-term relief of nasal congestion in older children and adults, nasal decongestants can be used. Nasal decongestants are chemicals (for example, pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, etc.) that narrow the blood vessels in the nose, thereby preventing fluid from leaking and the lining from swelling. As a result, the lining shrinks and the nasal passages open. Culled from medicinenet.com

Section