Patient Handout SymptomaticTreatment for Mild Respiratory Infections


A cold and most flu-like illnesses are caused by viruses and will get better in a week with treatment and seven days without.  It is only the complications that require treating and these are always caused by bacteria.  What I mean by this is that the virus paves the way and bacteria may follow on, causing complications.  Because of the alarmingly rapid appearance of bacteria which are resistant to many antibiotics, we have to be very much more careful in the prescribing and use of these precious agents.  The question is when you should seek medical treatment and there can be no hard and fast rules, but the following symptoms should not be ignored….

  • Earache or any pain in the ear.
  • Toothache – may signify a sinus infection.
  • Headache – especially if worse with bending over and/or with a stiff neck.
  • Cough with coloured phlegm that persists longer than two or three days.
  • Fever of greater than 40º C (104º F) for more than one or two days.
  • Any unusual symptoms.

Assuming that your cold is an uncomplicated one then here are some suggestions on how to treat it.   Regard it as an opportunity to rest and cosset yourself.  It’s no use complaining that it is interfering with your plans – just bear with it.

  • First and most important of all is REST.
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) regular strength, two or three every four hours will help the discomfort and control your fever.
  • Advil (ibuprofen) 200 mg or Aspirin may be substituted for the above.
  • Nasal congestion can be relieved by inhaling menthol vapour

Þ This can be done by dissolving one or two menthol crystals (available at most pharmacies and health stores) in hot water and gently and deeply inhaling the fumes.

  • Relief can also be obtained from “Fisherman’s Friends” and as a last resort Entex LA can be bought over the counter.
  • Cough is best treated as the above. If it is very dry and irritating then I suggest Robitussin DM.
  • For general relief there is no substitute for a long hot bath and then an early night to bed.  I suggest that the bath be as full and as hot as you can bear, close the windows and doors and do not have the exhaust fan on.  In other words  make a steam bath.  Stay there for at least twenty or thirty minutes (topping up the hot water as necessary), and then after go straight to bed – with a hot rum toddy……..

Þ 2 teaspoons of sugar (preferably brown)

2 teaspoons of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)

2 ounces of rum (dark preferred)

hot water to about eight ounces

Dissolve the sugar and lemon juice in a small amount of the hot water.  Add the rum.  Stir well.  Add the rest of the water.  Enjoy.

You should sleep like a baby and wake up feeling much better.

  • Vitamin C about 500 mg will help your immune system.
  • In spite of lack of scientific evidence, many patients give good reports of echinacea.
  • Again, I emphasise the importance of REST to allow your immune system to overcome and kill the virus.

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