If you're like most people, you've probably been dealing with a cold or the flu for the last few weeks. It's that time of year again! The good news is that there are things you can do to help yourself feel better. In this blog post, we will discuss what these infections are, and some natural remedies for winter colds and the flu. We will also provide some tips on how to deal with congestion, coughs, and fevers. Keep reading for more information!
Now, I said this was coming from a virus, and it's not just one virus you need to be wary of.... There are more than 200 that are ready to attack your immune system. It's very likely that someday in the coming weeks/months you'll have a very close encounter with one of these. What are they ? Some examples are Rhinovirus, Coronavirus, RSV , Influenza and Para-influenza...to name only a few. There are many viruses that doctors haven't even begun to identify or name yet. Researchers think that 20%-30% of colds in adults are caused by these "unknown" viruses/agents.
How They Strike
Cold viruses have a lot in common, but each often has its own special or unique features. For Example-
Coronavirus. In past decades these tended to "attack" in the winter and early spring. The coronavirus is said to cause at least 20% of all colds. In the past, there were only 30-40 kinds, but only three or four affected people. With COVID 19, and the many mutations, these numbers have changed greatly. The stuff we have seen for the past 2-3 years was a nasty one, which seemed to have been trained to attack the lower respiratory track initially ( the delta variant), but has morphed back into a virus that causes colds, sore throats, fever, fatigue, headaches, etc.
Rhinovirus. This viral family is usually most active in early fall, spring, and summer. They cause what most researchers think, is about 10%-40% of colds. Patients feel pretty rotten when they attack, but the good news is that they rarely make anyone who is typically healthy , seriously sick.
RSV and para-influenza. These viruses are blamed for 20% of colds. They can sometimes lead to more serious infections, like pneumonia, in compromised individuals and in young children.
Myths about Your Colds
It is probably time to set the records straight. There's absolutely no evidence that you get sick just because you've been out in cold weather, gotten wet, etc . Getting overheated, or chilled probably doesn't make you "catch a cold" either.
Another myth says your diet is the main cause. Don't pay attention to that old wives tale either . You can also say FALSE to someone who says you're getting sick because your tonsils are large.
BUT, research does suggest that stress and allergies that affect your nose or throat may raise your chances of getting infected by a cold virus, by altering the body's protective mucosal layer..
The Best Defense is a Good Offense ( ie PREVENTION!!!)
When it comes to colds and the flu, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some tips that may help keep you from getting sick in the first place:
Wash your hands regularly and often, especially before you eat. Use warm water and soap, and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, mouth, and eyes. This is how viruses enter your body.
Stay away from sick people. This is not always possible...but try not to get "in their face" . The recent "Covid days" had folks being told to wear masks. I will not debate them here, but will say that a mask may stop a sick person from spreading snot and phlegm all over creation and back, but those thin covers do not stop viruses. Check some of the pre-covid research. Many folks at higher risk feel better wearing a mask, and I want folks to do what makes them feel better and feel protected, but I just want to to also know that NOTHING makes you "bullet or virus proof" . (https://brownstone.org/articles/mask-mania-interview-with-ian-miller/)
Many suggest a flu shot every year. It's also not perfect, in that they are formulated about a year before the current flu-season, and are made using an educated guess as to what viruses will be hitting...this year, based on last years research. I like to say the BEST prevention is to boost your immune system, which we will talk about in a bit, but it certainly includes these things-
Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. This will help keep your immune system strong.
Special immune boosting supplements include-
Vitamin D3- I like the liquid form, and recommend 5000 IU's/day.
Zinc- I like the lozenge form, with at least 10-15 mgs of "elemental zinc" per dose. It can be found in oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and lentils.
Echinacea- taken at onset of symptoms, has been shown to lessen their severity and duration. It has been used for centuries to treat infections and boost the immune system.
Vitamin C -found in citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach. The body does not store Vitamin C, so it needs to be replenished daily.
Garlic- not only does it make your food taste great, but it also contains sulfur compounds that fight infection.
Ginger- another herb with anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve a sore throat.
Manuka honey- this type of honey is unique to New Zealand and has been shown to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Oscilliococcinum- this is a homeopathic remedy that is taken at the onset of symptoms and has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity and duration of flu symptoms.Many say it is as good as medications like Tamiflu, if not better.
Stay well hydrated.
What to Do If You Get Sick if you DO get sick
Many of the things mentioned above DO help, but If you do happen to come down with a cold or the flu, there are some other things you can do to help ease your symptoms and speed up the eradication of the virus.
Rest- Your body needs time to fight off the virus.
Drink plenty of fluids. Water, juice, and clear soup will help to keep you hydrated. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
Use a humidifier. This will help to ease congestion and coughing. Sometimes we add a nebulizer with which we can give you supplements or medications to help with some of the symptoms (wheezing, coughing, etc)
Stay warm. A fever is your body's way of fighting off the virus, so you don't need to always try to bring it down with medication. Just dress in warm, comfortable clothes and drink warm beverages, is one way to deal with this. I also refer you back to my last article on fever
Gargle with warm salt water. This can help to soothe a sore throat. Also folks ( if the throat is painful) a mixture of chloraseptic and peroxide to ease the pain, and to kill the viruses or bacteria. Believe it or not, but gargling with sauerkraut juice can also help you get rid of the sore throat. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-sauerkraut
Use a neti pot. This will help to clear out your sinuses. Many folks use the saline mixture alone, or mix it with a very small amount of diluted peroxide. Some folks, swabbing the nasal passages out with peroxide to kill the viruses and help prevent spread to others. Using saline nasal spray or drops will also help to ease congestion.
Hot shower- the steam helps clear the infection, the sinuses, and help the congestion as well.
You can take/use homeopathic and or take over-the-counter medications. These can help to relieve some of the symptoms you are experiencing. Be sure to follow the directions on the package. Some common cold and flu medications include:
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Cough suppressants (Delsym, Robitussin)
Expectorants (Mucinex) and homeopathic remedies include-
Oscillococcinum ( which I call OSSIE),
Cold Calm ,
Essential oils for colds-
For naturally fighting that cough I recommend-
Honey- Small children under the age of 1 should not have honey. Honey has been used for centuries to help ease a cough.
Marshmallow root tea- This herb contains mucilage that coats and soothes the throat.
Ginger tea- This herb can help to break up congestion and ease a cough.
And essential oils for cough- Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Frankincense, Ravensara, and Tea Tree oils. You can add a few drops of these to a diffuser or make a chest rub by adding them to coconut oil or shea butter.
If the viral infection gets secondarily infected with a bacteria, then many folks want antibiotics, and in those cases I also insist on a pro-biotics. For those that do not want to take an antibiotic, but that want added protection, many suggest colloidal silver.(https://www.honeycolony.com/article/amazing-benefits-of-silver/)
Call your medical provider if your symptoms get worse or if you have any other concerns or questions.. We here at Back to Basics are restarting our virtual urgent care in December, that will be available to our patients 24 hours a day to help you save a visit to the office, or urgent care, or the ER. Let me know if you want more information as to how to access this service
Most importantly, don't worry. Cold viruses are easy to catch, but they usually go away on their own in a week or two. With some rest and care, you'll be feeling better before you know it.