T’is the season to be sneezing, coughing and feeling absolutely yuk………

Its okay you’re not really dying, although  you feel it’s about to happen……. (in my mind I’m sing this to a famous Christmas carol)

Sorry to rehash a previous post but it is happening again.

I still think it is irresponsible to encourage someone who has an infectious illness like influenza to take a tablet so they can feel better. Go on Audrey, take Jen a cake to infect her birthday party guests…..some friend you are! Go Audrey. Go Johnson & Johnson Pacific Pty Limited.

Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) Pty Limited the makers of Nurofen Cold and Flu also puts profits ahead of common sense and evidence in their marketing.

Pfizer Consumer Healthcare has at least updated their Dimetapp web ad, no more encouraging sharing your virus in the local public pool. This can be still seen on Youtube.

Most people with a cold or influenza recover with rest, drinking plenty of fluids and use of paracetamol for the relief of pain and fever.

As reported by NPS recent systematic reviews and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials suggest oral zinc may reduce the duration of a cold by about 1 day (24 hrs….yah) if administered within 24 hours of symptom onset in otherwise healthy adults and children.

There are specific prescription-only drugs that may be useful in influenza. These are not antibiotics; antibiotics are not useful for treating viral illnesses like influenza.

South Australia’s Health Department advises the best way to slow down the spread of influenza is to get vaccinated.  The Influenza Management Guideline for Emergency Departments and General Practice suggests isolation and face masks whilst being assessed. Furthermore, if the patient doesn’t require admission to hospital encourage the patient to stay at home and practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette. If going outside house, strongly encourage the patient to keep at least 1 metre away from other people and to use cough etiquette. Patting kids on the head in the playground is neither.

The NSW Health Department specifically recommends symptomatic people should not attend school, child care, work or public gatherings. Is there any clinical evidence that any of these over the counter well marketed do any good? Has Reckitt Benckiser, Pfizer, Johnson &  Johnson or any number of Pharmaceutical companies conducted and published randomised clinical trials proving benefit of these products? It’s not as if there is a lack of suitable subjects. In a similar vein, Cochrane has shown there is no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medicines in acute cough. Studies often showed conflicting results with uncertainty regarding clinical relevance. And if these products don’t do any good can they do harm? Well yes and particularly in children. Sarfstein et al argue in the NEJM (Over the Counter but No Longer under the Radar) that there is no evidence of effectiveness particularly in children and documented harm. Cardiac arrhythmias, hallucinations, convulsions, altered consciousness and encephalopathy are some of the severe side effects. In the US, an FDA review implicated symptomatic cold and flu treatments in 123 deaths of children under six years of age. In Australia the TGA suggested in November 2012 that children under six should not be given these medications.

So my advise is to stay at home, call in sick to work or school, don’t spread the virus around, wash your hands, keep up fluids (not beer), eat some oranges (or take vitamin C for what its worth), try zinc and wait for you immune system to get you back to good health. You can try to control symptoms with paracetamol for pain, decongestant for nasal symptoms, lozenges for a sore throat.  Most symptoms apart from a cough are gone by a week.

Oh and if you smoke its a great time to given up something that is making you feel even worse!!

And lastly think about a influenza vaccination.

Save your co-payment for when you are really sick.



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