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‘‘Tis the season for cold and flu and has all the information you need to get well and stay well! On Thursday, November 20, Dr. Shanicka Williams, “The DivaMD” joined us for a live Facebook chat to answer our readers’ cold and flu questions. Check out the recap below.


Are there are proven ways to get a cold to go away faster? – Terry B.

Flu shots, hand washing, healthy eating, and regular exercise are the best ways to avoid cold and flu. If you can stomach supplements, and their cost… These may help strengthen your immune system and reduce the duration of symptoms: Omega 3, Astragalus, Echinacea, Vitamin D, Ginseng, Zinc, and Vitamin C.

Is it possible to spread a cold without having symptoms? – Jason C.

Yes. If you have a sub-clinical infection (you are carrying a bacteria or virus, but show no outward signs/symptoms), you can unknowingly spread the “bug” that causes a cold or flu to others… prior to you feeling ill. Remember, everybody’s immune system is different, so who catches what and when varies.

I have cold/flu issues (stuffy nose and ears) constantly for over 3 months. Does that mean I have allergies? – Saran T.

Saran, your question is a difficult one to answer with a limited amount of information, but generally you may likely be suffering from allergies, as a cold or flu does not have a duration of 3 months. What I would generally be concerned about when I hear constant upper respiratory symptoms for a period of 3 months is upper respiratory infection, or chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis is one of the more prevalent chronic illnesses in the United States, affecting persons of all age groups. It is an inflammatory process that involves the paranasal sinuses and persists for 12 weeks or longer. The literature has supported that chronic sinusitis is almost always accompanied by concurrent nasal airway inflammation and is often preceded by rhinitis (runny nose) symptoms; thus, the term chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) has evolved to more accurately describe this condition.

Chronic sinusitis manifests more subtly than acute sinusitis. However, it may start suddenly, as an upper respiratory tract infection or acute sinusitis that does not resolve, or emerge slowly and insidiously over months or years. At times, the initial symptoms may be acute in nature. Unless an appropriate history is taken, the diagnosis may be missed. The typical symptoms of acute sinusitis—fever and facial pain—are usually absent in chronic sinusitis. Fever, when present, may be low grade.

Patients with chronic sinusitis may present with the following symptoms:

Nasal obstruction, blockage, congestion, stuffiness

Nasal discharge (of any character from thin to thick and from clear to purulent)

Postnasal drip

Facial fullness, discomfort, pain, and headache (more with nasal polyposis)

Chronic unproductive cough (primarily in children)

Hyposmia or anosmia (more with nasal polyposis)

Sore throat

Fetid breath


Easy fatigability


Exacerbation of asthma

Dental pain (upper teeth)

Visual disturbances


Stuffy ears

Unpleasant taste

Fever of unknown origin

Chronic sinusitis may be noninfectious and related to allergy, cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux, or exposure to environmental pollutants. Allergic rhinitis, nonallergic rhinitis, anatomic obstruction in the nasal complex, and immunologic disorders are known risk factors for chronic sinusitis.

So, as you can see this condition can be quite involved and resolution could be as simple as a course of antibiotics or as serious as surgery. My recommendation would be, don’t delay any longer, see your healthcare provider for definitive evaluation and treatment.

If I have high blood pressure and a cold does what does that mean when it comes to medicine I can or can’t take? – Bernice J.

Certain cold preparations can exacerbate (make worse) your high blood pressure. Common types of drugs that can make your high blood pressure worse:

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Decongestants like Pseudoephedrine

NSAIDs include both prescription and over-the-counter medication. They are often used to relieve pain or reduce inflammation from conditions such as arthritis. NSAIDs can raise your blood pressure by making your body retain fluid and decrease the function of your kidneys. This process may cause your blood pressure to rise even higher, putting greater stress on your heart and kidneys.

Common NSAIDs that can raise blood pressure:

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

You may also find NSAIDs in over-the-counter medication for other health problems. Cold medicine, for example, often contains NSAIDs.

Cough and Cold Medications

Many cough and cold medications contain NSAIDs to relieve pain and it may increase your blood pressure. Cough and cold medications also frequently contain decongestants. Decongestants can make blood pressure worse in two ways:

(1) Decongestants may make your blood pressure and heart rate rise.

(2) Decongestants may prevent your blood pressure medication from working properly.

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a specific decongestant that can increase blood pressure.

What can you do to prevent increases in blood pressure?

Avoid using cough and cold medicine that contains NSAIDs or decongestants like Pseudoephedrine. Ask your healthcare provider for specific suggestions about other ways to ease congestion symptoms, such as antihistamines or nasal sprays that may work best for you.

Does exercise play a role in helping a cold go away faster? – Francis L.

Yes! Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These measures help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

Humidifiers have always worked for me, is there something about steam that works best? – Michael E.

Patients suffering from symptoms of a cold may benefit from conditions of increased humidity. Moisture helps to treat dryness inside the nose (nasal passages). It helps add moisture inside the nose to dissolve and soften thick or crusty mucus.

This can be accomplished in several ways. The first is by using a cold mist humidifier. The cold mist humidifier produces a fine mist that adds humidity to the air, which is particularly helpful in relieving symptoms such as nasal congestion. The use of a cold mist humidifier is preferred over a vaporizer because the humidifier creates a cool mist in the air instead of creating steam by heating the water, which is how the vaporizer works.

The hot steam produced by a vaporizer can cause burns if not handled with care. If you use a cool mist humidifier or a vaporizer, you should be sure to clean the device often, as recommended. This will eliminate the possibility of aerolizing germs through the device. Another way you can increase humidity in the air is by taking a hot shower. The hot shower creates steam, which can provide symptomatic relief of cold symptoms, particularly nasal congestion.

I’m reading more and more about use of a Neti pot. Does that work? – Tikisha M.

FB Chat Exclusive: The ‘DivaMD’ Answers Your Cold & Flu Questions  was originally published on

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