I’m going to be honest with you. Cold and flu season is almost ALWAYS here in Canada. It runs from November all the way until April! Why is there a season for cold and flu anyways? It all has to do with being indoors. It gets cold, and people go out less and stay inside more. This means that people are in closer contact with each other and infection spreads very easily from person to person and surface to surface. Read on to find out more information about colds and flus and some natural cold remedies.
Colds and flus might seem insignificant, but if you think back to the last time you had one you’ll remember how taxing they can be on the body. Sometimes they just knock you right out and you aren’t able to carry on with your daily tasks at all. Maybe that’s why there was a LIFE tile rewarded for “Curing the Common Cold” in the Life board game. They may be considered minor pathologies in the grand scheme of things, but we still want to prevent them if possible.
Cold vs. Flu… what’s the difference?
Before finding out what options there are for natural cold remedies, let’s distinguish between the common cold and the flu. To put it simply, a cold isn’t as bad as the flu. With a cold, you are contagious for the first 2-3 days and the symptoms last about a week. You’re more likely to have symptoms like a stuffy nose, sneezing, and a sore throat. A flu, on the other hand, is more severe and has the potential to result in more serious complications like pneumonia. A flu is contagious for the first 5 days. Most symptoms improve over 2-5 days, but you can feel “run down” for a week or even more. With a flu, you’re more likely to have symptoms like fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, and weakness.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have shortness of breath, make sure to see your doctor, as this could be a sign that you are developing pneumonia. If you have a fever that goes away for 1-2 days and then returns, be sure to see your doctor since this is also a potential sign of pneumonia. Cold symptoms that last more than a week, this could mean that you have an allergy or sinusitis, so it’s important to see your doctor to be treated for those conditions.
How do I prevent catching a cold/flu from someone else?
Of all the natural cold remedies, prevention is the best one. Since the cold/flu can be spread from one surface to another, it is important to avoid touching contaminated surfaces. Some surfaces we clean often, such as countertops and work desks. But there are lots of surfaces that we touch every day but don’t think of cleaning, such as: doorknobs, handles (microwave, refrigerator), copiers/printers, keyboards, phones, and coffee pots. You might want to think about cleaning these items more often!
Another good tip is to wash out your water bottle daily. But if you put just water in it every day, then there’s no point in washing it, right? Wrong. Germs can live in your water bottle, and you don’t want to be drinking those down daily. Another important tip for prevention is to avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose. These contain entryways to the body that make it super easy for pathogens to enter and make us sick.
Allergies affecting the nose and throat may increase your chances of getting a cold or flu, so be sure to avoid contact with any known allergens. Since this whole entire cold-flu season is caused by being cooped up inside, getting lots of fresh air can help prevent you from getting sick. It’s also important to get regular exercise, manage stress, and drink lots of water (2 L per day), since these practices help to maintain a healthy immune system.
What foods should I be eating to boost my immune system?
Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. There are so many foods with immune-stimulating properties that we can incorporate into our diets as natural cold remedies. Garlic is a potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. Mushrooms (Reishi, Shitake, and Maitaki) are full of protein, fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and a host of other minerals. They’re rich in beta-glucans, which work similarly to Echinacea (an immune herb I’m sure you’ve heard of). Beta-glucans actually bind to white blood cells to activate their anti-infection activities. The gut plays an important role in our immune system, and probiotics help the gut to function properly. Probiotics are naturally in yogurt and fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, sourdough, kefir, kimchi, miso, sour cream, and soy sauce. Some other immune-boosting foods that can be used as natural cold remedies are:
- Fruit (especially blueberries)
- Whole grains
- Elderflower tea
- Green tea
It’s too late, I caught a cold… what are some natural cold remedies?
STAY HOME! When we are sick, we somehow feel the need to push through it and attend to our responsibilities at work and school. When you do this, you aren’t doing anyone any good. By not resting, you are potentially increasing the amount of time it will take you to recover from your cold. And when you go to work, you are spreading your germs around to everyone else. So this means that trying to keep up your productivity at work by going when you’re sick actually decreases productivity in the workplace since it can keep you sick longer and then spread it to everyone else in the office! One of the best natural cold remedies is just staying home and resting.
As soon as you feel that cold coming on, pop 2-3 cloves under your tongue. They may taste strong, but are potent antimicrobials! Another thing you can do is load up on green tea. Research shows that green tea doesn’t only prevent colds and flus, but it also helps during the cold itself. One of the most annoying parts of having a cold is the congestion. Steam inhalation is a great treatment for this. Try it out by following the steps below:
- Boil some water and place it in a bowl.
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil.
- Wait until the water cools enough that you can do step 4 without burning yourself.
- Sit with your face above the bowl and drape a towel over your head and the bowl.
- Take deep breaths for 2-5 minutes, or until there is no more steam.
Sometimes when we get sick, our body is trying to tell us something. Listen to your body! If you’re not feeling well, stay home and rest. Your body probably needs it.
Image courtesy of: Hans Vivek