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Cold and Flu Medicine: Fighting the Never-Ending Battle
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All kinds of viruses dog humanity, but few have the diabolical persistence of cold and flu bugs. Indeed, there are so many different forms of colds and flus that figuring out exactly what we we're afflicted with can sometimes be more than a little confusing to both patients and physicians. Starting with near-chronic mild coughs and sniffles that can last for weeks or even months without causing even a mild fever, to the kind of one-two punch that can easily knock the healthiest among us out commission for several days, to serious illnesses that require medical attention especially for the very young or the elderly, to mysterious cases of "the blahs" that come and go with a logic all their own, these common ailments come at us with bewildering persistence. It's no surprise, that cheap or expensive, in both good and bad economies, the sales of over the counter retail and closeouts, sales wholesale cold and flu medicine remain evergreen for retailers at all price points, both cheap products and expensive product solutions.

In recent years, newsworthy strains have emerged including avian influenza and the H1N1 strain, or so-called "swine flu." While this may seem like just so much fodder for the worry-inducing TV news, the fact of the matter is that these are serious health concerns and that calls for vaccinations should be heeded. Of course, there are so many strains of the flu that no one is completely protected from bugs, though shots may still reduce the severity of variant strains. Colds are another matter and, while very rarely life-threatening, can open the door for other illnesses and, almost as bad, cause countless hours in lost productivity and, just as bad, lost enjoyment of life. Such dread illnesses as polio and smallpox have been all but annihilated; new treatments for once invariably deadly cancers have been developed, and even the AIDS retrovirus ? which at first terrified scientists with its complexity ? has become highly treatable. For all that, we are seemingly no closer to "a cure for the common cold" than we were thirty years ago. No wonder cold and flu remedies are such consistent best sellers.

Most OTC cold and flu medications include a few types of ingredients, either singly or in combination. For starters, there are pain relievers from the NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) family that often also reduce fevers; these include aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and Naproxen (Aleve). Then, we move on to antihistamines of various types that slow down mucus production and also may cause drowsiness and help us to sleep. Fighting the same problem from a different angle, decongestants help to reduce the size of blood vessels in nasal passages and make mucus easier to expel. In addition, there are antitussive cough medicines that work by circumventing the coughing reflex, and expectorants that make coughs more productive (which is a polite way of saying they make it easier to cough up "lugeys"). Other medications that may help with the stomach flu in particular include antacids along the lines of Alka-Seltzer. Also, there are popular herbal remedies that raise the eyebrows of skeptics but which many consumers swear by.

The vast array of OTC retail wholesale cold and flu medicine is, for most of us, genuinely helpful in getting through a cold or a flu ? particularly if they help you get plenty of rest ? one of the only surefire treatments we know for shortening colds and flu. Other common sense tips worth mentioning -- though you've heard them all before -- for coping during mild illnesses include consuming lots of fluids, eating healthily to bolster your immune system, avoiding alcoholic beverages (particularly if you consuming products that cause drowsiness and/or contain acetaminophen, which should never be used with alcohol) and definitely refraining from smoking. Our mothers also remind us of the miraculous properties of one of one alleged cold cure that's always cheap and that we personally really and truly believe in: chicken soup.