Chances are either you have the flu, know someone who has the flu or are avoiding someone who has the flu.
Nearly 20,000 people are suffering from influenza-like symptoms across the state, compared with just 4,400 in 2012. And according to Dr. Tom Farley, commissioner of the New York City Health Department, the worst is yet to come.
“The flu epidemic is definitely worse than we’ve seen in years,” says Farley. “We’re right around the peak of the epidemic now,” says Farley. “The flu lasts a long time, and we can certainly expect cases to occur for another six to eight weeks.”
So do you fight the bug with a Tylenol/Cold-EEZE cocktail, slurp down gallons of chicken soup or just sleep it off?
We asked Dr. Prarthana Beuria, a general internist and instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital, to tell us what really works.
The Cure: Tamiflu
The Claim: The FDA-approved prescription drug attacks the flu virus and eases symptoms like fever, chills, aches, cough and sore throat.
Fact-Check: “This is the only approved antiviral medicine,” says Beuria. “It actually acts on the virus.”
Verdict: See your doctor about giving this a shot.
The Cure: Tylenol Cold & Flu
The Claim: It loosens phlegm to make coughs more productive, reduces fever, and eases aches, stuffy noses and sore throats.
Fact-Check: “It provides symptomatic relief,” says Beuria, “but does not shorten the duration of the illness because it does not attack the virus itself.”
Verdict: If you’re in agony, this pain reliever doesn’t hurt.
The Cure: Super Lozenges
The Claim: Cough drops like Cold-EEZE (with cold-fighting zinc) and Fisherman’s Friend (with sinus-clearing menthol) shorten colds while soothing coughing and sore throat.
Fact-Check: “There is no clear evidence to suggest that these help,” says Beuria. “Some studies show that zinc taken early enough may help, but the studies are not great. Menthol does not reduce the congestion but smelling its strong smell can make you feel better.”
Verdict: It’ll help clear your throat, but won’t cure your flu.
The Cure: Acupuncture
The Claim: This ancient Chinese remedy boosts the body’s immune system by pricking certain points in the skin with thin needles to speed blood circulation and produce infection-fighting white blood cells.
Fact-Check: “There is no clear evidence for its use in colds,” Beuria says, although some studies suggest it eases pain and headaches.
Verdict: Don’t pin your hopes on this.
The Cure: Homeopathic Drinks
The Claim: Drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with a cup of warm water, or a clove of minced garlic stirred with water, is said to help kill bacteria while easing sore throat symptoms.
Fact-Check: Beuria says there is no evidence this works — plus, the flu is a virus, not a bacteria.
Verdict: This one’s hard to swallow.
The Cure: Chinese Herbs
The Claim: Antiviral herbs like woad root and woad leaf, forsythia fruit and honeysuckle flower buds have been combined in traditional Chinese medicine to treat upper respiratory infections.