November 20, 1998


LAWRENCE -- Feed a cold and starve a fever? Or is it the other way around?

Actually, you should drown both of them, said Jeremy Matchett, pharmacy professor and associate dean of the school of pharmacy at the University of Kansas.

Although there are drugs that will give relief from the symptoms of a cold, Matchett said the best thing you can do is to drink six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.

"Plenty of fluids. That's what your physician will tell you. That's what your pharmacist should tell you," he said. "Either the cold or flu, drink plenty of fluids. Orange juice and water will help flush the system out.

"A cold is a cold, and if you treat it intensely with the over-the-counter products that you can buy, you'll probably get over it in 14 days," he said. "If you don't do anything for it, it'll drag on for two weeks."

Matchett says that both colds and the flu are caused by viruses. However, a flu virus is a little more severe. But how do you tell the difference?

"Fever would be the big clue to seek attention," he said, adding that body aches are also a sign. "The problem is, there's nothing curative for either one of them besides your own resiliency and your own body defenses. There are no drugs available to cure colds or influenza."

The best advice, Matchett said, is to get plenty of rest and, again, drink plenty of fluids. And he adds a warning: If fever is present, adults can take aspirin or ibuprofen. Children should not.

"Tylenol's a better choice for children because there's a risk of association of Reye's Syndrome in aspirin in children who have viral-induced febrile illness," Matchett said.

The best advice for children with colds or the flu? "Don't overmedicate a child. The average child is going to have five to six colds a year, and half of them may end up with a middle-ear infection," he said. "That's what you have to live with when you have children of preschool age. They're just going to have that many upper respiratory infections in a winter's time."

Other recommendations by Matchett include

-"... find a product that gets to the symptom that's bothering you most. My recommendations are to take the over-the-counter product with the fewest ingredients."

-"Antihistamines, which are drying agents, are practically of no value in the treatment of the cold or flu because histamine isn't a factor in the response as it is in allergies."

-Not everyone should take decongestants. "There are some that you should stay away from, particularly older persons, persons with diabetes or thyroid disease or heart conditions." Decongestants affect the cardiovascular system, especially those which contain phenylpropanolamine (found in Tavist-D). "Phenylpropanolamine has greater cardiovascular effects -- has more central nervous system stimulation."

-Follow the labels and limit the ingredients. "Those labels are put there as a result of studies that document the appropriate dose. And if a little bit does a little good, a lot won't do a lot of good."

-Get a flu shot. "Not enough people take them. Generally speaking, I would recommend flu shots to most people."

Story by Dann Hayes, (785) 864-8855


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