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ninjacolin's avatar

Do cold and flu symptom relief medications extend the life of your cold or flu?

Asked by ninjacolin (13777 points ) November 9th, 2012

When the body gets a bug it wants to (among other things) expel what it can through sneezing, dripping and coughing and burn up what it can through fever…

Could it be said that cold and flu symptom relief medications reduce the onslaught against the bugs and therby extend the life of your cold or flu?

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8 Answers

wonderingwhy's avatar

Anecdotally and indirectly, I’d say they do. I love DayQuil & NyQuil (“green-death fuckin’ flavor!”), but I seem to stay sick longer with it. I suspect it’s a combination of things. I only take it when I’m feeling really bad so already the sample is skewed to more serious ailments. They tend to curb my appetite so I eat and drink less and don’t get the same nutrition and fluid intake I would normally and need especially when sick. While I’m chugging the big-Q like cheap beer at a frat party I tend not to rest nearly as much as I should. Then of course there’s my inability to follow directions, so yeah I pretty much take a swig whenever I feel bad, which is well – constantly – so I’ve probably got some low-level acetaminophen poisoning going on. I suspect the combination of the above, are the real reasons relief meds make it last longer, not because they do anything directly, but rather the indirect effects keep us from doing what we’re supposed to.

And as you said, your body is usually doing what it’s meant to do anyway so interfering with that as soon as one feels the first sniffle, particularly when only treating the symptoms, probably isn’t helping. Bottom line, under normal circumstances, let your body do it’s thing and use that stuff only when you need to improve your ability to sleep. The problem is a lot of times we use it so we don’t have to sleep, rest, and take it easy when we most need to – hence it takes longer to evict whatever cold/flu has taken up residence.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t think so.

The nasal discharge, the sneezing, the coughing, etc. is indeed how the respiratory tract tries to rid itself of environmental irritants like pollen, dust or smoke. For those kinds of substances, that’s an effective strategy.

But it’s not an effective strategy against cold viruses since they’re not all just lying on the surface of the mucous membranes where they can be washed away. By the time these symptoms arise, many are already replicating within your cells. In a relatively short time, your immune system will figure out how disarm this virus, and that is how you’ll get rid of the cold, not by expelling the virus.

So the virus has one mission before your leukocytes do it in: get out into another host. It does this by co-opting your histamine reaction to get spewed out into the world on your excretions.

If you take meds to limit your excretions, you aren’t going to be sicker for having more viruses inside you. You’re already massively infected. But you are foiling the virus’ master plan by keeping it from finding its way into another poor schmuck.

zenvelo's avatar

Not if you use the right meds.

Zicam and Tom Yum, plus a good decongestant with ibuprofen. Have you feeling better quickly!

KNOWITALL's avatar

Not for me. On the rare occasion I am sick, I use Nyquil and perhaps a throat spray, lasts less than 7 days, usually 2–3 max, and I’m good. Sleeping well seems to heal my body much faster than anything else. I also drink a ton of weak hot tea, orange juice and no milk products. Staying home, warm and not stressed also seem helpful.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Not if Mucinex is used correctly with NSAIDS. I’ve found the opposite to be true.

Unbroken's avatar

Apple cider vinegar with hot water and honey, stops bugs before they get bad and helps speed recovery also ginger lemon and honey tea. Synergy it’s a beautiful thing.

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burntbonez's avatar

I doubt it. Although when you have a lot of snot and such, I think the purpose is to remove the pathogens from your system. So if you dry it all up, do they stay in your system?

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