It’s that time of year once more! A cold can make you feel poorly for a few days, but it isn’t as terrible an illness as it may appear to you when you’re suffering from it. The old adage “it takes three days to catch a cold, three days to have it, and three days to get rid of it” is pretty accurate, so if your cold has lasted more than nine days, seek medical advice because it might not be a cold at all. Flu, on the other hand, can be a serious sickness, particularly if you are extremely young, elderly, or already have respiratory problems. There are many different flu viruses, and each one behaves differently. So how can you avoid getting colds and flu, and what can you do to relieve the symptoms if you do get it?
First and foremost, let’s talk about colds.
Colds are infectious viral respiratory illnesses that cause inflammation in the nasal and throat linings. Antibiotics will not help because they are caused by a virus. However, there are several natural therapies that can help you deal. Nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, stuffy head, headache, minor muscle aches and pains, and sore throat are all frequent symptoms of the common cold.
Colds are caused by a variety of factors.
The common cold virus has over 200 distinct strains. Over time, most adults develop immunity to the bulk of them. The symptoms are generated by your body’s defense mechanisms fighting to rid you of the virus, not by the virus itself.
Colds are easily shared by direct and indirect contact, or through the air from someone who already has a cold sneezing or coughing. Colds are caused by a weakening of your body’s immunity due to stress, overwork, and other factors, not by exposure to cold, damp winter weather. Indoor (central) heating and dry air are also known to dry up your nasal passages, making them more friendly to cold viruses. (Think about using a humidifier.)
The long-term solution is to maintain a robust immune system by reducing stress and leading a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining your essential life force energy (qi/chi) through doing Tai Chi, Chi Kung, or harnessing energy for self-healing is also recommended by Chinese Medicine and Qigong practitioners (as in Reiki). You boost your energy vibrations to a level that protects you from external pathogenic influences when you practice these energy exercises (germs and viruses). Limit your exposure by washing your hands frequently, avoiding persons with colds, not sharing towels or phones, and avoiding touching your face with unclean hands.
Natural Cold Treatments
Supplements can help you recover faster as well as reduce some of your symptoms. Vitamin C, the most popular choice, does not actually prevent colds. It will help boost your immune system’s response to the viruses and help shorten its duration.
Vitamin A taken in high doses (50,000 IU twice a day) at the first signs of a cold, can help fight the virus. Do not continue taking such high doses for more than five days. And if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy do not exceed 5,000 IU of vitamin A per day.
Ginger is the favorite Ayurvedic cold remedy. Combine equal amounts of ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass in a cup. Steep in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes and then add honey to taste. You can also replace the lemongrass with a pinch of cardamom.
The herb echinacea is an immune booster. This natural antiviral herb should not be taken for more than two weeks at a time. The herb Goldenseal can be taken along with echinacea and works well to reduce cold symptoms.
Zinc lozenges may also help speed recovery and may relieve sore throats. (Look for lozenges containing zinc gluconate, glycinate and ascorbate).
To soothe a sore throat try a gargle with warm, salty water several times a day, and drinking hot fluids, including tea and chicken soup, is soothing. If you can why not have a rest in bed if you feel bad.
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When should you consult a doctor?
Pneumonia is a serious illness that can affect infants and the elderly. If your cold suddenly worsens and you have chest pain, shortness of breath, a strong cough, and a high fever after a few days, see a doctor.
If you have asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema, call your doctor if you notice that your symptoms are worsening.
What to Do If You Have the Flu (Influenza)
The flu is a highly contagious virus. A terrible cold is similar to a mild flu. More severe case of flu causes chills, pounding headaches, joint and muscle discomfort, cough, dry or burning eyes, sore throat, and weariness throughout the body.
Flu usually takes three to four days to incubate after being exposed to the virus. Although the flu usually lasts less than ten days, exhaustion and a lack of appetite can last for weeks.
The symptoms of flu, like colds, are caused by the body’s attempt to fight the virus. Again, like with colds, there is no treatment. However rest and a few herbs and supplements can help to alleviate symptoms and assist the body’s immune system’s fight against the virus.
The elderly, persons with chronic illnesses (such as heart or lung disease), and anyone with a weakened immune system, such as AIDS patients or recent chemotherapy patients, are at the greatest risk of having flu complications.
What are the causes of the influenza virus?
Flu outbreaks are caused by changing strains of the three main types of influenza viruses, and they frequently occur as epidemics. Both the flu and cold viruses spread in the same way.
Type A viruses are the most virulent and are responsible for the majority of epidemics. Type B viruses are milder, while type C viruses are responsible for the flu’s mildest cases. Type C viruses are most similar to a common cold.
For people most at risk of complications the flu vaccine is an option. Your medical provider may prescribe anti-viral drugs Zanamivir (Relenza), which is a nasal spray, and oseltamivir (Tamiflu). You will need to take them early in the course of the illness for them to work.
Supplements that can help relieve flu symptoms.
Vitamin A may help shorten the duration of the flu. Take as recommended for colds (see above).
Taken in high doses (2,000 mg three times a day, for five days), vitamin C may also help.
Consider the herb echinacea to boost your immune system. Do not take echinacea for more than two weeks without a break though.
Acupuncture can help some people to avoid catching flu. It may also help to avoid the worst of the symptoms, and shorten the length of the illness.
Natural self care remedies for Colds & Flu.
- Stay in bed, resting or sleeping, until your temperature returns to normal.
- Drinking plenty of warm fluids. Take water at room temperature and choose fruit/vegetable juices, or vegetable, chicken, or clear beef soups.
- As with colds, to ease a sore throat gargle with warm, salty water and suck zinc lozenges.
- If you have a dry, non-productive cough use a humidifier in the room and add eucalyptus oil or Olbas Oil to an oil burner.
And lastly – a general herbal remedy for colds and flu.
Crush a medium sized garlic clove and half a teaspoon of fresh ginger, squeeze the juice of a lemon. Mix together with a teaspoon of honey in a cup of warm water and drink up to three cups a day.
Colds and flu, are unpleasant for most people, but it goes quickly. On the plus side, because your immune system has created antibodies against it, you are unlikely to catch the same virus again for a long time after you have had it. So relax and indulge yourself; you’ll be feeling much better in no time.
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The information contained in this post is not to be substituted for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional before starting any herbal treatment, supplement, or remedy.