Frequently Asked Questions

Cold and flu have slightly different symptoms because they are caused by different viruses. In fact, there are approximately 200 different cold viruses but just 3 main flu viruses that most of us need to worry about. However, the obvious difference is that flu can cause a more severe infection.

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 will usually peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. Seasonal influenza is not usually associated with diarrhoea 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 4 colds per year, mostly during the winter months when we spend more time indoors around other people.
Children tend to get colds more often than adults, because they haven’t yet built up an immunity to the viruses.

Antibiotics only work against bacteria so they will not work for treating your cold as this is caused by a virus.

Children tend to have 7-10 colds per year, whilst on average an adult has 2 to 4.

Children tend to have 7-10 colds per year, whilst on average an adult has 2 to 4.

Children generally 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 one another. 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.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Colds, however, are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics.

The overuse of these types of medications can lead to antibiotic resistance so that infections don’t respond to treatment with antibiotics. The doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics only if your child has developed a bacterial infection secondary to (on top of) a cold.

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.

In terms of general advice, what’s good for your cold is good for your child’s. They should get plenty of rest, and drink lots of fluids – warm drinks are particularly soothing.

But there are a few more things to be aware of. Make sure the room they are in is well-ventilated and neither too cold nor too hot. Consider letting your child wear just a nappy or underwear to keep them from overheating. For blocked noses in children old enough to use pillows, you can also try to ease breathing by raising the pillow end of the little one’s bed or cot.

Cold symptoms can be treated with liquid paracetamol or liquid ibuprofen to ease aches and pains, headaches, and fever. Always check the packaging for the proper doses and age requirements. And remember never give aspirin to children under 16 except on medical advice. Otrivine® has products specifically fomulated for the relief of nasal congestion due to colds: Otrivine® Child Nasal Drops and Otrivine® Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal Spray are both suitable for children aged over 6 years old.

Otrivine® Child Nasal Drops contains xylometazoline hydrochloride. Always read the label.

There is currently no vaccine for the common cold. There is a flu vaccine but this does not have any effect on colds, as they are caused by different viruses.

Stopping the spread of germs is one of the best ways to prevent a cold from spreading. And it’s really quite simple. Practise good hygiene. That means keeping surfaces clean, including telephones and keyboards. And don’t forget to use a tissue when you sneeze or cough and then throw it out. But most importantly wash your hands, and often.

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

  • drink a lot of fluids (avoiding those with caffeine like coffee and tea) 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
  • use paracetamol or ibuprofen to help bring down fevers or headache

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 at home when you’re sick helps to stop the spread of germs.

There is another factor to take into account. Trying to carry on as normal, instead of staying at 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 through contracting the 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
  • pet dander

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 usually 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:

  • blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • itchy eyes, nose or throat
  • watery eyes
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath

Remember, these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so if you’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms, see your doctor.

Asthma and allergies often go hand-in-hand. Asthma is a disease of the branches of the windpipe (bronchial tubes), which carry air in and out of the lungs. There are several different types of asthma: allergic asthma is a type of asthma triggered by an allergy (for example, by pollen or mold spores).

During an asthma attack three things happen to impede breathing:

1. The muscles in the lungs tighten causing airways to narrow.
2. The linings of the airways become swollen and inflamed.
3. Finally, the cells surrounding them produce thicker than normal mucus.

This hinders the movement of air in and out of the lungs and makes breathing difficult.

If you suffer from asthma, and your symptoms get worse, please seek immediate medical assistance. Otrivine® products do not treat asthma.

First try to avoid as much as possible your allergy trigger.

  • If you’re allergic to pollen, you could use an air conditioner to keep it out of your house or ensure all windows and doors are closed when the pollen count is high.
  • For dust mites, consider putting 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, jewellery, 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, 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 chronic 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
  • allergic rhinitis (e.g. 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 (perennial allergy), you may be allergic to dust mites, pet dander or mould. Outdoors, mould allergy 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.

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.

A specific allergy is not usually passed down through families. However, if both your parents have allergies, you are likely to have them too.

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

Sinusitis is the inflammation caused by an infection 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.

When sinuses are infected and inflamed, the small drainage channels become blocked. The sinuses behind the cheekbones (the largest ones) are the most commonly affected. 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
  • headaches
  • bad breath
  • thick nasal discharge

Sinusitis can be caused by:

  • viruses
  • bacteria
  • allergies

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

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

In uncomplicated cases, the symptoms of sinusitis begin to clear up in a 2.5 weeks.

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. Therefore you should seek immediate advice from your doctor.

Around two thirds of people who get sinusitis don't need to see their GP. However you should consult a doctor if your symptoms don't improve after seven days, if they're getting worse, or if your sinusitis keeps coming back.

For mild sinusitis, over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to relieve a headache, high temperature and facial pain or tenderness. Always check the packaging for the proper doses and age requirements. And remember never give aspirin to children under 16 except on medical advice.

For congested nasal or sinus mucosa, if you are aged 12 years old or over you can use Otrivine® Adult Measured Dose Sinusitis Spray (xylometazoline hydrochloride) to relieve congestion associated with sinusitis.

If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.

Follow the advice of your doctor when taking antibiotics.

It is advisable to keep yourself warm and steer clear of strenuous activities. There are also several things you can do at home to help relieve your symptoms:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • avoid smoky areas
  • use Otrivine® Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal spray to wash out nasal discharge and mucus-trapped viruses and bacteria

If symptoms persist or worsen, such as pain in your sinuses, headaches, fever and thick nasal discharge, please consult your doctor immediately.

Viral infections that lead to sinusitis can be contagious, whereas bacterial sinusitis is generally not. It’s important to remember that most viral upper respiratory infections (common colds) cause nasal congestion, which may involve the sinuses. If the viral sinus infection lasts well past the normal duration of a cold, there’s a possibility you might have viral sinusitis.

Bacterial sinusitis most often occurs as a complication of a viral common cold. Bacteria that are normally present in the nose and throat take advantage of the viral infection to invade the inflamed sinus passages. These sinusitis-causing bacteria may be passed from person to person, but won’t cause an infection unless the right conditions are present. Unlike with cold viruses, most people who come into contact with someone suffering with bacterial sinusitis won’t develop the infection, even if they are exposed to the bacteria.

It is not recommended to use any of the products within the Otrivine® range when you are pregnant. We would suggest that if you are feeling a bit blocked up that you speak to your pharmacist or doctor who may be able to recommend a suitable treatment for you.

Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.

It is not recommended for you to use Otrivine® if you are breastfeeding without advice from a doctor.

Otrivine® Allergy Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray can be used in combination with single ingredient antihistamine products. Though we would recommend that you speak to your pharmacist or doctor prior to using Otrivine® Allergy Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray alongside any concurrent medication.

Children over the age of 6 years old can use Otrivine® Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal Spray and Otrivine® Child Nasal Drops. The other products in the Otrivine® range can be used by adults and adolescents over the age of 12 years. If your child is under 6 we would recommend that you speak to your pharmacist or doctor who may be able to recommend a suitable treatment for them.

When this medicine is administered into the nose, the active ingredient, xylometazoline, works by contracting the nasal blood vessels, thereby decreasing blood flow into the linings of the nose and sinuses. This reduces swelling and the feeling of congestion. It also reduces the production of mucus, helping to relieve a blocked nose.

The following Otrivine® products are not to be used continuously for more than 7 consecutive days:

  • Otrivine® Congestion Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray
  • Otrivine® Adult Metered Dose 0.1% Nasal Spray
  • Otrivine® Adult Measured Dose Sinusitis Nasal Spray
  • Otrivine® Allergy Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray
  • Otrivine® Adult Nasal Spray
  • Otrivine® Adult Nasal Drops

All the above products contain xylometazoline hydrochloride. Read the patient information leaflet carefully before use.

If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.

The following Otrivine® product is not to be used continuously for more than 5 consecutive days:

  • Otrivine® Child Nasal Drops

Contains xylometazoline hydrochloride. Read the patient information leaflet carefully before use.

If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.

Otrivine® Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal Spray can be used on a regular basis for as long as required. If symptoms persist for more than 10 days, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Otrivine® products are available from pharmacies and supermarkets. Otrivine® products for children are available over the counter in pharmacies.

For specific locations consult our Where to buy section.