How to fight a cold on the fly

Sean O'Neill
A pharmacy in Germany.

Having a head cold on a plane may make you contemplate the guillotine. But you can reduce the severity of the symptoms by trying these "counter measures" from the American Pharmacists Association:

Drain a glass of water before your flight takes off. Dry air in an airplane cabin generally aggravates cold symptoms. Fight this problem by drinking a lot of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages while on board, too. Yes, staying hydrated on a flight can be inconvenient. But when you're congested, changes in cabin pressure can spark intense pain in your sinuses, and the resulting discomfort can last for days afterward. You won't regret the hassle of drinking up.

Don't overeat. Sorry to break the bad news, but there's no scientific support to grandma's saying, "Feed a cold and starve a fever."

Don't assume your local pharmacy knows what Tylenol is. Pack an emergency stash of medicine for your trip. If you have to seek help at a local pharmacy, try to do some Internet research about the names of medicines in advance. Tip: In Europe, the generic pain reliever acetaminophen goes by the name of paracetamol.

Don't speak the local language well? Be careful. Drugs that can only be sold with a prescription in the U.S. (because of the potential for accidental misuse) are often available over the counter in foreign countries. Don't be intimidated by a pharmacist. Insist that he or she accurately understands what your symptoms are and what health conditions you may have before you agree to his or her recommendations.

Alternative, or complementary, treatments are more generally accepted abroad. Don't be surprised if a pharmacist suggests you try a homeopathic treatment that's unfamiliar.

Decongestants often go by different names overseas. In Europe, for instance, the decongestant pseudoephedrine (used in American drugs like Sudafed) is seldom sold over the counter. Ask your pharmacist for their preferred option.

Finally, a Budget Travel tip: Never let a pharmacist talk you into buying more drugs and products than you want.


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