Communities are beginning to see the cold and flu season roll in. Bundle up, this will last as late as May.
Coughs and sniffles during colder months are something Centura Health pharmacist and father of five Vinny Polito counts on. He says, "If one person catches it, there is a high likelihood everyone will catch it - folks with a cold are contagious for a day before experiencing symptoms." Vinny adds the secret to outwitting a cold is identifying the symptoms and treating just those symptoms. He says, "Don't use more medicine ingredients than are necessary; don't go for an all-in-one cold medicine if you're not experiencing all the symptoms – treat only those symptoms you or your kids are experiencing."
Cold and flu season can also mean a guessing game when it comes to knowing what you or family members have come down with – both present similarly, so understanding what to do, and when, can be confusing. When the annual flu bug is suspected at the Polito household, "First of all, I don't panic. We do our best to prevent the flu with annual flu shots, but there's always a chance you'll get a flu strain that wasn't covered by the shot. If anyone in the family experiences flu-like symptoms, with a fever over 102 and body aches, they are kept in isolation until they are fever-free for 24 hours while ensuring they have plenty of fluids and simple, bland foods like crackers or soup." Vinny adds, "If the symptoms are especially bad, we will head into urgent care for evaluation. Some prescription medicines can reduce the duration of the flu if started early enough – within 48 hours of onset."
When it comes to the medications pharmacists turn to for relief, Vinny says, "For the most part, at my home, we use the same ingredients for both kids and adults – the only difference is we have a liquid formulation for the kids." His must-haves for fever and sore throat are acetaminophen and ibuprofen. He uses plain guaifenesin (Robitussin) for wet coughs and guaifenesin DM for hacky coughs. Loratadine (Claritin) is the go-to for runny nose and itching during the day and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for runny nose and itching at nighttime. Adults can also use pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) for sinus congestion. Vinny adds, "Most new formulations of over-the-counter medicines are just re-brands of ages-old cheap generic medications; look at the ingredients, not the brand name. I'm a fervent believer in looking past the brand names to find the cheapest generic alternatives."
Centura’s Vinny Polito was among other national experts that SHAPE magazine recently turned to for an article on the Best Cold Medications for Every Symptom. He was also featured by Denver’s NBS affiliate in a “Ask the Pharmacist” Segment.