Over-the-counter cold medications may help spread the flu

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As the flu season drags on, all those over the counter cold medicines we turn to help with our symptoms may be doing more harm than good.

In an attempts to answer questions doctors may have about the benefits of treating flu like symptoms, a controversial study using mathematics to calculate risk suggests you may be going back to work, school or play, while still able to transmit the virus.

Jennifer Mitchell is the Managing Director for The Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota. She says the show must go on, and is back at work only a few days after posting her picture donned with a mask on her Facebook page.

Mitchell took over-the-counter medications helping to relieve flu symptoms. She said they made her feel able to take care of her family, including her three children, two of which also had the flu.

"I've done Ibuprofen for the fever, and for the aches and pains, and also I've done Musinex, which has helped." Said Mitchell. And,she is protecting those around her by staying out of areas where she may come in close contact with others and practicing good hygiene, including washing her hands frequently.

Because she is extremely cautious, chances of infecting others is low, but, Suncoast Pharmacist, Michael Pass, R.Ph. of Family Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy in Sarasota said, "All of these cough and cold preparations reduce symptoms, acts as a decongestant, an antihistamine and acts to suppress cough and breaks up congestion, but it really has no effect on the cause."

While the CDC does recommend fever reducing medications, they do not cure either the flu or a cold, and there is another concern.

"You may also transmit it to other people". Said Pass.

The calculations used in the study suggest 1,000 more may die from the flu in a typical year because of taking over the counter cold and flu drugs including Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, then going back to an environment in contact with other people.

Steven Harris, M.D. of Doctor's Hospital of Sarasota said, "Just because you feel better, does not necessarily mean that the flu is gone." He explained you can spread the virus as long as you have symptoms.

He said there is one way to make sure you are rid of the virus completely, "So they can do a flu test, but there's no treatment for the flu, usually after two days." And he suggested making the decision of when to go back to work or school with your physician.

Pass had other suggestions for a quick recovery. he said, "Stay home, get lots of rest and lot of fluid and of course I love chicken soup!"

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