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Use of decongestants in cold and flu season

02 January 2023
Volume 28 · Issue 1

There are over 200 subtypes of the common cold (British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2022). Most people experience at least one cold a year, which is usually self-limiting and lasts less than a week (BMJ, 2022). It involves inflammation of the upper respiratory tract mucosa, which may affect the nose, throat, sinuses and larynx, producing sore throat, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, headaches, cough, malaise and low-level fever. However, frailer patients are at higher risk of a more severe degree of illness from a cold.

Flu (also known as influenza) is a more severe illness that has similar symptoms to the common cold and can have a detrimental effect on the vulnerable. Influenza is categorised as type A, B or C. Type A is more virulent and frequent, B involves milder disease but can still cause outbreaks and C causes mild or no symptoms that are similar to the common cold (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2022a). With flu, you may see more extreme fatigue, chills, fever and myalgia, and there may be a dry cough and nasal congestion. Complications of flu include bronchitis, secondary bacterial pneumonia, and may at times be cardiac or neurological in presentation (NICE, 2022a).

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