Why complementary medicine is better than Ibuprofen or Paracetamol in the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections (common cold and ‘flu).
An article by Russell Setright, Naturopath and more
Most people at one time or another will catch a common cold or ‘flu. Many different types of viruses cause these infections and it is these viruses that infect the nose, throat and upper respiratory tract causing pain, congestion and fever.
Common sense tells us that keeping warm and avoiding sudden temperature changes, such as leaving a warm home or office for the cold outdoors**, will reduce the chances of catching a cold or ‘flu. Always don warm clothing when moving from a warm to a cold environment as these sudden changes in temperature lower resistance to infection without adequate protection.
Unfortunately, many people just continue doing work and play without rest and use analgesics and other cold formulas to just ‘push on through’. Although these may east the aches and pains associated with respiratory infections, they don’t reduce your spreading the sold to others and, in fact, may worsen the symptoms and increase the time needed until recovery. In some cases we just may need something to get through an important event so taking analgesics may help, but prevention or a reduction of the duration of symptoms of a respiratory infection is the best way and complementary medicine may just have the answer.
There are many herbs, vitamins and minerals that have a positive effect on reducing the incidence, duration and symptoms of respiratory infection.
The evidence shows that Paracetamol and Ibuprofen could prolong the symptoms of respiratory infections. A new study found patients were more likely to come back within a month with worsening or new symptoms if they were prescribed Ibuprofen or Ibuprofen with Paracetamol for the symptoms of the common cold. Between 50% and 70% of participants in this study who were prescribed Ibuprofen or Ibuprofen with Paracetamol had elongation and worsening of the symptoms that required returning to their doctor.
Use in the elderly
Ibuprofen should not be taken by adults over the age of 65 without careful consideration of co-morbidities and co-medications because of increased risk of adverse effects, in particular heart failure, gastro-intestinal ulceration and renal impairment.
Use in pregnancy
Category C: Ibuprofen inhibits prostaglandin synthesis and, when given during the latter part of pregnancy, may cause closure of the foetal ductus arteriosus, foetal renal impairment and inhibition of platelet aggregation and may delay labour and birth. Use of Ibuprofen is, therefore, contraindicated during the third trimester of pregnancy, including the last few days before expected birth.
Reference: Little P, Moore M et al. Ibuprofen, paracetamol, and steam for patients with respiratory tract infections in primary care: pragmatic randomised factorial trial. BMJ. 2013;347
** Or during hot summer weather, going from the heat into air conditioned shops, offices, homes and cars.