Frequently asked questions

Read on to get the answers to some of your frequently asked cold and flu questions.

    • Although both are caused by viruses, cold and flu have different symptoms. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly whilst cold symptoms occur more slowly.

      Cold symptoms often begin with a sore throat. After one or two days, this typically gives way to nasal symptoms and congestion along with a cough. Fever is uncommon in adults, but a slight fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.

      Flu symptoms come on more quickly than cold symptoms. Symptoms of flu include fever, sore throats, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, congestion and coughs. Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it's not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. Seasonal influenza is not usually associated with diarrhea and vomiting, at least not in adults. However, these symptoms appear with stomach flu, which is a popular but inaccurate term for gastroenteritis.

    • Most people tend to get between 2 and 5 colds per year. Children tend to get colds more often than adults, because they haven’t yet built up an immunity.

    • Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work against bacteria not viruses. Using unnecessary antibiotics on a frequent basis can compromise health-promoting bacteria in your digestive tract and can cause you to develop a resistance to antibiotics.

    • Children get fewer colds as they get older because their immune systems become stronger. Colds are usually more common in the colder months when children are inside and in close contact with others. Younger children tend to get colds more easily as they have yet to build up immunity to the many different cold viruses around. Children with older brothers and sisters and those who attend daycare tend to have more colds.

    • There isn't a cure for the common cold. The best you can do is to treat the symptoms so that your child can get back to normal as quickly as possible. Usually symptoms are worse in the first 2-3 days, and then begin to ease off.

      Click here to read more about sick kids and what can help them.

    • There isn't a cure for the common cold. The best you can do is to treat the symptoms so that you can get back to normal as quickly as possible. Usually symptoms are worse in the first 2-3 days, and then begin to ease off.

      Otrivin has a line of Medicated and Saline Nasal Sprays that can be used by children to relieve sinus and nasal congestion due to colds, allergies, and hay fever.  Otrivin Medicated Nasal Sprays can be used by children ages 12 and older.  Otrivin Isotonic Saline Nasal Sprays can be used by children ages 2 and older, Otrivin Baby Care can be used by infants 2 weeks and older.  Otrivin also has a Hypertonic Nasal Spray which has the added benefit of temporarily relieving sinus congestion caused by  sinusitis, and can be used by children ages 6 and older.

    • There is currently no vaccine for the common cold. There is a flu vaccine only. 

    • There is no cure for the cold. However, you can treat the symptoms.

      Drink a lot of fluids (avoiding those with caffeine like coffee, tea, and colas) to help mucus flow freely. Gargle with salt water to help relieve a sore throat. Decongestants can help shrink dilated vessels in the nose. Saline nasal sprays can also open breathing passages and may be used freely. Avoid smoky areas.

    • The decision is up to you. Consider this, if you’re ill, you’ll have a hard time functioning and performing at your normal level. And you’ll expose those around you to infection, especially in the first two days of your cold when you’re most infectious. Staying home when you’re sick helps to stop the spread of germs.

      Also consider that trying to carry on as normal, instead of staying home, may lead to a worsened condition, requiring an even longer recovery period.

    • In short, no. The only way to catch the common cold is by virus. So why do people get sick more often in the winter? There is no definitive answer. But when it is cold outside, people tend to spend more time together inside where they can easily pass on viruses.

      There is also evidence that viruses are more easily transmitted in dry air – exactly the sort of conditions created when the heating is turned on. No matter what the temperature it is still cold viruses that cause the cold not the temperature outside.

    • Allergy is the word used to describe a reaction that the body has to a particular food or substance in the environment. Most of the substances that cause allergies are not harmful and have no effect on people who aren’t allergic. Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include:
      · pollen
      · house dust mites
      · mould
      · pets
      · nuts

      An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it’s a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called an immune response.

      The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the body remembers the previous exposure and produces more of the antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that lead to an allergic reaction.

    • Allergic reactions do not happen the first time you come into contact with an allergen, but at a later point of contact.

      This is because the body’s immune system has to develop first sensitivity to the allergen before you can become allergic to it. In other words, your immune system needs to recognize and memorize the allergen (for example pet hair or pollen). This process is known as sensitization.

      Typical allergic reactions involve irritation and inflammation (swelling). Symptoms may include:

      · runny nose
      · blocked nose
      · sneezing
      · cough
      · itchy eyes, nose or throat
      · watery eyes
      · wheezing
      · shortness of breath
      · asthma
      · eczema

      It’s important to remember that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so see your doctor for advice if you're not sure what's causing your symptoms.

    • First try to avoid as much as possible the allergens you are sensitive to.

      If you suffer from a congested nose due to seasonal allergy (hay fever) or allergic rhinitis, Otrivin nasal sprays are an effective way to relieve the nasal symptoms.

      If you’re allergic to pollen, avoid the allergen and you could use an air conditioner to keep it out of your house. For dust mites, put dust-proof covers on your mattress and pillows. If you’re allergic to pets, try to keep them out of your bedroom.

    • There are lots of common allergens, including:

      · pollen
      · mould
      · pet dander
      · dust
      · seafood
      · egg
      · latex

      Insect bites, jewlery, cosmetics, spices, and other substances can also cause allergic reactions.

      Some people may also develop allergy-like reactions to hot or cold temperatures, sunlight, or other environmental triggers. Sometimes, a single friction (rubbing or roughly stroking the skin) can cause an allergic reaction like hives/urticaria.

    • In most people, allergies first appear during infancy or childhood. Allergic disorders rank number one among children’s diseases.

      Any child may become allergic, but children from families with a history of allergy are more likely to be allergic. Children may inherit the tendency to become allergic from their parents, but only some of them will develop an active allergic disease.

      Children’s allergies can show up in different ways, including:

      · skin rashes (atopic dermatitis or eczema)
      · seasonal/perennial allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever)
      · food allergies
      · asthma

      Allergic rhinitis, or the seasonal allergy ‘hay fever’ as it’s better known, is the most common of all childhood allergies. It causes runny, itchy nose, sneezing, postnasal drip and nasal congestion. It can occur at any time of the year.

    • If your allergies act up at certain times of the year (seasonal allergy), you may be allergic to pollen. In the spring, pollinating trees are usually to blame for allergies. In summer, grasses and weeds mainly make pollen. In autumn, it's weeds, especially ragweed.

      If your symptoms tend to last all year (per annual allergy), you may be allergic to dust mites, pet dander or mould. Outdoors, mould usually peaks in late summer and early autumn. But it can be around all year.

      You can be allergic to more than one thing, and you can have both seasonal and year-round allergies. In fact, it’s common for people who have allergies to be allergic to more than one trigger.

    • Usually, hay fever is caused by pollen produced by grass, ash and small-leaved linden. Hay fever is an allergic reaction of the organism to ash, which belongs to the olive family of plants. 

    • You can expect more plant pollen and seasonal allergies if you come into contact with any of these plants:
      Flowers/herbs
      Amaranth (pigweed), chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, goldenrod, ordinary sunflowers.
      Shrubs/vines
      Cypress, jasmine vine, juniper, wisteria.
      Trees
      Alder, ash (male), aspen (male), beech, birch, box elder (male), cedar (male), cottonwood (male), elm,   hickory, red and silver maples (male), mulberry (male), oak, olive, palm (male), pecan, pine, poplar (male),   sycamore, walnut, willow (male).
      Grasses
      Bermuda, fescue, Johnson, June, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, salt grass, sweet vernal, timothy.
      Weeds
      Cocklebur, ragweed, Russian thistle, sagebrush

    • The tendency to develop allergies is often hereditary, which means it can be passed down through your genes. However, just because you or your partner has allergies doesn’t necessarily mean that your children will definitely get them. 

    • Allergies can take their toll on many areas of your life. Tiredness and fatigue are a big one. You may often feel sleepy during the day, due to your blocked nasal passages disrupting sleep patterns. This is often referred to as ‘allergy fatigue syndrome’. 

    • Sinusitis is an inflammation or infection of the lining of the sinus cavities. These are the hollow spaces in your skull.

      You have four pairs of sinuses in your head:

      · two behind your forehead
      · two at either side of the bridge of your nose
      · two between your eyes
      · two between your cheekbones

      Your sinuses open up into the cavity of your nose and help control the temperature and water content of the air reaching your lungs. Usually, the mucus naturally produced by your sinuses drains into your nose through small openings.

      Sinusitis can occur when these channels become blocked after the sinuses have been infected and inflamed. Sinus infections often follow a cold and can cause pain and pressure in your forehead, eye and jaw area.

    • If you feel pain and pressure in your face, and have a stuffy or runny nose, then there’s a strong possibility you are suffering from sinusitis. You might also feel an increase in the pain and pressure in your face when you lean forward or move your head. If you have severe pain in your sinuses, or a headache, fever and thick nasal discharge, please consult your doctor.

      Other common symptoms of sinusitis include:

      · pain and tenderness in facial sinuses
      · runny nose
      · blocked nose
      · fever
      · headaches
      · bad breath
      · thick nasal discharge
      · cough

    • Sinusitis can be caused by:

      · viruses
      · bacteria
      · fungi
      · mechanical obstructions

      And the most common cause is the same viruses that cause the common cold. Many people with nasal allergies such as allergic rhinitis – for instance – are likely to have recurring or long-term sinusitis. Nasal polyps, foreign objects (usually in children), structural problems in the nose such as a deviated septum, and other conditions can also block the nasal passages, increasing the risk of sinusitis.

    • There are several ways you can reduce your chance of getting sinusitis:

      · treat stuffiness (nasal congestion) caused by colds or allergies as soon as you can.

      · avoid contact with people who have colds and other viral upper respiratory infections. If you do have contact with people who have these infections, wash your hands often, especially after being in contact with those who are infected

      · avoid cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke in your home and workplace. Smoke causes and irritates inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses

      · if you have allergies, avoid the things that trigger your allergy attacks. You could also consider talking to your doctor about allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy)

      · avoid breathing dry air. Consider using a humidifier at home and work to increase the moisture in the air

      In general, the things that prevent colds also prevent acute sinusitis. The best advice is to live a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, take regular exercise, enjoy a healthy vitamin-rich diet, get plenty of fresh air, get a good amount of sleep, limit your alcohol intake and avoid stress. This will strengthen your immune system and help to prevent diseases.

    • In uncomplicated cases, the symptoms of sinusitis begin to clear up in a few days. Sinusitis can be either acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term). Most acute viral sinus infections usually go away on their own within 10 to 14 days.

      However, if the inflammation does not completely go away and your sinusitis symptoms (such as severe pain in your sinuses, headaches, fever and thick nasal discharge) do not improve or worsen, there’s a possibility you may have developed chronic sinusitis, which may be caused by bacteria and might need to be treated with antibiotics (8). Therefore, you should seek immediate advice from your doctor.

    • For congested nasal or sinus mucosa, you can use Otrivin’s Hypertonic Nasal Spray, Otrivin Natural Severe Congestion Relief. Its Dual Action Sea Water is a natural and powerful nasal spray that relieves nasal and sinus congestion caused by colds allergies or sinusitis. First it loosens and thins mucus build-up so it can be washed away. Then it reduces congestion and swelling in the nasal cavities by drawing water out of swollen nasal membranes, temporarily promoting nasal and sinus drainage, helping you to regain your ability to breathe.

      Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections, so will not work for sinusitis caused by a virus.

      However, bacterial sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics. If you suffer from chronic sinusitis you should consult your doctor for treatment options.

    • Viral infections that lead to sinusitis can be contagious, whereas bacterial sinusitis is generally not. 

    • It is not recommended to use Otrivin when you are pregnant, except Otrivin Natural line.

    • If you are breastfeeding, always consult your doctor before using Otrivin, except if you are using Otrivin Natural line.

    • It is unlikely that you will become addicted to Otrivin, if used as recommended. You should always carefully read the product leaflet before using Otrivin and comply with the dosage instruction, usage frequency and treatment duration.

    • Make sure to always consult the instructions on the packaging as different Otrivin products have different dosages, instructions and age requirements. Below are the general instructions for the different Otrivin lines: Medicated, Natural and Baby Care.

        Otrivin Medicated Otrivin Aloe & Sea Water Otrivin Severe Congestion Otrivin Baby Care
      12 years+ X X X X
      6 years +   X X X
      2 years +   X   X
      2 weeks +       X

      Otrivin Medicated Products:
      For adults and children 12 years or older. Do not use in children under 12 years of age.

      1.  Blow your nose prior to administering.
      2. Hold the bottle upright with your thumb under the base and nozzle between your first and second fingers.
      3. Before using for the first time, prime the pump by spraying several times into the air, until a fine mist     appears.
      4. With your head tilted slightly backward, spray 2 times into each nostril.
      5. Breathe deeply.
      6. Replace cap after use.

      May be used every 8-10 hours. Do not exceed 3 applications daily or exceed the recommended dosage.

      Otrivin Natural Products:
      Isotonic products for adults and children 2 years or older. Hypertonic product for adults and children 6 years or older

      1. Blow the nose if necessary
      2. Insert nozzle into one nostril, tilt head slightly in the opposite direction
      3. Spray a short burst to cleanse the nostril
      4. Repeat in the other nostril
      5. After use, clean and dry the nozzle and put the protective cap back on

      Suggested use is 1-2 times per day, or as often as needed.
      Due to its cleansing properties, use before using another nasal decongestant product.

      The spray head is designed to fit the natural shape of the nostrils and limit the depth of insertion.

      For Otrivin Baby Care:
      For infants and children.
      It is recommended to seek medical advice before using on infants less than 2 weeks old.

      1. Lay the child on its back with its head tilted towards the right.
      2. Insert the applicator in the left (upper) nostril and spray a short burst to cleanse the nostril.
      3. Follow the same procedure in the right (upper) nostril after turning the child’s head to the left.
      4. After use, clean and dry the nozzle and put the protective cap back on.

      Suggested use is 1-2 times per day, or as often as needed.

      Children should be supervised when using this product.

    • Yes. Otrivin is not contraindicated when used in combination with antihistamines and antiallergens.

    • Children 2+ can use Otrivin Natural Sea Water & Aloe (Isotonic Formulation). Children 6+ can use Otrivn Severe Cold and Allergy (Hypertonic Formulation). Otrivin product that contains 0.1% xylometazoline should not be used in children aged less than 12 years of age.

    • Otrivin products are available over the counter in pharmacies. For specific locations consult our list of retailers.

    • Although both caused by viruses, cold and flu have different symptoms. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly whilst cold symptoms occur more slowly.

      Cold symptoms often begin with a sore throat. After one or two days, this typically gives way to nasal symptoms and congestion along with a cough. Fever is uncommon in adults, but a slight fever is possible. Children are more likely to have a fever with a cold.

      Flu symptoms come on more quickly than cold symptoms. Symptoms of flu include fever, sore throats, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, congestion and coughs. Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it's not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more. Seasonal influenza is not usually associated with diarrhea and vomiting, at least not in adults. However, these symptoms appear with stomach flu, which is a popular but inaccurate term for viral gastroenteritis.

    • Most people tend to get between 2 and 5 colds per year. Children tend to get colds more often than adults, because they haven’t yet built up an immunity.

    • Cold are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work against bacteria not viruses. Using unnecessary antibiotics on a frequent basis can compromise health-promoting bacteria in your digestive tract and can cause you to develop a resistance to antibiotics.

    • Children get fewer colds as they get older because their immune systems become stronger. Colds are usually more common in the colder months when children are inside and in close contact with others. Younger children tend to get colds more easily as they have yet to build up immunity to the many different cold viruses around. Children with older brothers and sisters and those who attend nursery tend to have more colds.

    • There isn't a cure for the common cold. The best you can do is to treat the symptoms so that your child can get back to normal as quickly as possible. Usually symptoms are worse in the first 2-3 days, and then begin to ease off.

      Cold symptoms can be treated with analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease aches and pains, headaches, and fever. Young people and children should not take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome. Your doctor can provide you with more information. Otrivin 0.05% xylometazoline helps relieve nasal congestion in children aged 1 to 11 years old.

    • Allergy is the word used to describe a reaction that the body has to a particular food or substance in the environment. Most of the substances that cause allergies are not harmful and have no effect on people who aren’t allergic.

      Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include:

      · pollen
      · house dust mites
      · mould
      · pets
      · nuts

      An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it’s a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called an immune response.

      The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the body remembers the previous exposure and produces more of the antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that lead to an allergic reaction.

    • Allergic reactions do not happen the first time you come into contact with an allergen, but at a later point of contact.
      This is because the body’s immune system has to develop first sensitivity to the allergen before you can become allergic to it. In other words, your immune system needs to recognise and memorise the allergen (for example, pet hair or pollen). This process is known as sensitisation.

      Typical allergic reactions involve irritation and inflammation (swelling) in the body. Symptoms may include:

      · runny nose
      · blocked nose
      · sneezing
      · cough
      · itchy eyes, nose or throat
      · watery eyes
      · wheezing
      · shortness of breath
      · asthma
      · eczema

      It’s important to remember that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so see your doctor for advice if you're not sure what's causing your symptoms.

    • Sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the lining of the sinus cavities. These are the hollow spaces in your cheeks and around your eyes.
      You have four pairs of sinuses in your head

      · two behind your forehead
      · two at either side of the bridge of your nose
      · two behind your eyes
      · two behind your cheekbones

      Your sinuses open up into the cavity of your nose and help control the temperature and water content of the air reaching your lungs. Usually, the mucus naturally produced by your sinuses drains into your nose through small channels.

      Sinusitis can occur when these channels become blocked after the sinuses have been infected and inflamed. Sinus infections often follow a cold and can cause pain and pressure in your forehead, eye and jaw area.

    • There are several ways you can reduce your chance of getting sinusitis:

      · treat stuffiness (nasal congestion) caused by colds or allergies as soon as you can. 

      · avoid contact with people who have colds and other viral upper respiratory infections. If you do have contact with people who have these infections, wash your hands often, especially after being in contact with those who are infected

      · avoid cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke in your home and workplace. Smoke causes and irritates inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses

      · if you have allergies, avoid the things that trigger your allergy attacks. You could also consider talking to your doctor about allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy)

      · avoid breathing dry air. Consider using a humidifier at home and work to increase the moisture in the air

      In general, the things that prevent colds also prevent acute sinusitis. The best advice is to live a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, take regular exercise, enjoy a healthy vitamin-rich diet, get plenty of fresh air, get a good amount of sleep, limit your alcohol intake and avoid stress. This will strengthen your immune system and help to prevent diseases.

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