The Flu - Coughing
The cough reflex is effectively suppressed with dextromethorphan, the drug found in many OTC cough products with the “DM” notation on their label. If the patient has a wet cough and is coughing a lot, you still should suppress it to prevent the cough from damaging the chest wall or lung structures. Too much coughing, even when bringing up phlegm, can cause damage and should be lessened. Inhaling warm humidified air helps patients with infections of the nose, sinus, ears, throat, bronchial pathways, and lungs especially during winter when the air is dry. Caffeinated tea and coffee and chocolate contain an herb with well known medicinal effects on the lungs. The herb help keep the breathing tubes open, increase heart rate and blood flow, and encourage urination. The effect is to move more fluid through the lungs thinning the mucus and making it easier to cough up. The herb is also effective for relieving headache, lifting a depressed mood and for enhancing awareness.
Chest pain during flu is often due to the effect of coughing on the muscles, ribs, and cartilages that surround and support the lungs. An indication of this cause is when pressing on the chest wall, upper flanks, or upper abdomen brings out the pain. Treatment is to suppress the cough as explained above, allowing these injured tissues to heal. Pain can be controlled using a full dose acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen every six hours. Muscle spasm can play a role in this pain, and when it does, consider applying an icepack, heating pad, or hot water bottle to the chest wall. Chest pain can be excruciatingly painful and difficult to control.
Headache with influenza can come from several sources. Coughing shakes the head back and forth and can strain the neck muscles causing headache. Chemicals released by the viral infected cells and the immune system can trigger headaches. Bacterial sinusitis complicating flu causes facial pain and headache. Treat headaches using ibuprofen with or without acetaminophen. If neck stiffness or soreness is present, apply an ice pack heating pad, or hot water bottle to the back of the neck or head.
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