WASHINGTON - Could cold and flu drugs help spread the flu? Some researchers think so.
Over-the-counter cold and flu drugs contain ibuprofen, acetaminophen or other drugs that can reduce fever. When patients' fever is down, they tend to feel better.
But researchers at Canada's McMaster University concluded that when some patients reduce their symptoms with cold and flu medications, they feel better and return to work or school while still infected. While patients feel fine, they are still able to infect others, according to the study, which is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
NBC News reports that it's a controversial study, but it suggests as many as 1,000 more people a year may die from flu because of people taking over-the-counter medicines that make them feel good enough to get out of their sick beds and back into the swing of things, infecting others.
"We aren't saying don't take medication. That's not the message," David Earn, who specializes in mathematics and disease, said to NBC News. "Be aware that if you take this medication, there is this effective increase in transmission."
Just because you have a mild case of flu doesn't mean the person you infect will get a mild case, too. Influenza kills anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people a year, NBC reports.
Earn says a flu that may make a child feel bad, could be more serious for the elderly.
"Maybe you'll give your young child medication to make them feel better and because they feel better they might go jump in granny's lap and give her a hug and a kiss," Earn said to NBC.
For more information on this season's flu, go to the CDC website.
Tips on managing cold and flu symptoms:
- Want to get the flu? Volunteers sneeze for science
- Office etiquette for flu season
- Flu shot: New options, guidelines for those with egg allergy
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