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Cold and flu – Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

by Sonia Chartier, on 11 August 2014, Cold and Flu
cold and flu

The cold season changes our environment in ways that challenge our body: more germs to catch from the office, school, gym, planes or public transportation; extreme temperature variations; less sunshine, fresh air and outdoor activities…

The smart thing to do is to prepare our body to meet these challenges and continue to enjoy good health.  Prevention is key for getting through the cold and flu season successfully. It is especially important for those who are more vulnerable to infections.

During periods when you experience excessive stress, fatigue or prolonged exposure to virus or bacteria, your immune system may be too overwhelmed to function properly and successfully prevent infection from occurring. When that happens your objective is simple:  relieve symptoms and get better fast.

The people who are most at risk of catching a bug are smokers.  So if you are stressed, lacking sleep and smoking (usually more when stressed), then your risk level is quite high because all those things affect your immune system.

What is the difference between cold and flu?

The common cold is a contagious viral disease which infects the upper respiratory tract. Over 200 viruses are known to cause the common cold – this is why people can catch colds over and over again and never grow immune to it.  Most of us catch two to four colds a year – usually during the winter months.

Flu, shortened from “influenza”, is an infection of the upper respiratory system which is extremely contagious. Although the common cold and flu share similar symptoms, they are quite different. Flu is caused by a specific group of viruses known as influenza virus.

There are a number of different strains of flu, such as swine flu (H1N1) and avian flu (H5N1), with more forming as viruses mutate quickly.  This explains why people continue to come down with the flu each year and also why flu vaccination is only valid for one season. Flu affects up to 1 billion people worldwide every year.

Cold and flu symptoms

Despite the fact that over 200 viruses cause the common cold, symptoms tend to follow the same dreaded pattern:

  • Cold symptoms appear 1 or 2 days after you have been infected by a cold virus. It starts with a sore throat, a mild cough or hoarseness. You may have a runny or blocked nose or suffer from sneezing.
  • As your cold develops, your nose will discharge an increasing amount of mucus which become thicker and thicker.  Your nose feels blocked making it difficult to sleep and breathe normally.
  • This congestion may lead to a headache.

The flu virus are also numerous and generally share common symptoms. These include:

  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating and night sweats
  • Chills
  • Aching joints
  • Sore throat
  • Coughs
  • Nasal congestion
  • Exhaustion

As you see, many of the same symptoms may be experienced during a cold or a flu.  In general, flu gives rise to more severe symptoms. On the other hand, a severe cold may sometimes be treated as flu.  More often than not, you can still function with a cold whereas a flu will force you to remain in bed feeling miserable. If you are not sure which is affecting you, follow this link to a useful chart.

How to treat cold and flu

Many people expect antibiotics to cure minor illness. However, when it comes to the common cold, antibiotics are of little use. They treat infections caused by bacteria and have no effect on colds or flu which are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are usually prescribed when there is a clear bacterial infection such as a chest infection.

Other over the counter medications for cold and flu can help alleviate symtoms but do not shorten the duration nor cure the infection.  They can have various side effects but many cause drowsiness, making it hard to function.

Because exercise helps immune function, it is good to exercise with a cold as long as you listen to your body.  Indeed, if you have fever or suffer from asthma, it is best not to stress your system any further.  Also, if you took cold medication that increases your heart rate, you don’t want to exercise and make your heart pump harder than it should.

Our lifestyle and diet have a greater impact that you might think on how susceptible we are cold and flu.  See the Cold and Flu prevention tips at the end of the article.

Natural Cold and flu remedies

Cold and flu symptoms can be alleviated, or altogether avoided through natural cold remedies such as Echinacea, Elderberry, Vitamin C, Zinc, Garlic, Lanceleaf plantain, none of them causing drowsiness.  Symptoms are kept in check and you can get through your day.

The best is to avoid getting sick, period. Many natural remedies and supplements can actually help you achieve this by reducing the risk of getting a cold or the flu. They act primarily on enhancing the body’s immune defences.

What is Echinacea

Echinacea is a popular herb used for treating symptoms of colds and flu . It works by strengthening the immune system, increasing the body’s resistance to infection.  Echinaforce (made from fresh organic Echinacea) is the only remedy that works effectively for both prevention and treatment of cold and flu symptoms.  Echinaforce works on two fronts to prevent infection. First, it stops the virus from penetrating the body’s cells where the virus would replicate. Second, it improves the speed at which the immune cells respond to invading germs.

If you do catch a cold or a flu, Echinaforce provides relief as well.  It has been shown in research to reduce both the severity of the symptoms of cold and flu and number of days of infection. The latest research shows that Echinaforce adapts its activity to the health of each individual, offering greater support where there is greater need.  When we are stressed, run down and/or smoking, Echinaforce will work harder for us than when we’re strong and happy!

Natural Cough remedy

The cough reflex is not necessarily something that you want to dampen down – indeed, we cough when our lungs contain unwanted matter.  A productive cough will propel mucus upwards, to the “outer world”, where it will do you less harm than in your chest.  Coughing is quite straining and can be painful.  To reduce spasms of coughing and thin the mucus, use Bronchosan, a combination of ivy and thyme.   It will help you cough less but when you do cough, the stuff that should come out, will come out!

Natural cough syrup

Less productive and more irritating are the coughs that derive from irritated tissues in the throat or that rack your chest without producing much. Pine buds help to eliminate mucus and to prevent frequent infection with colds. Pine bud syrup has been used for centuries, as they were traditionally known to be full of healing properties. The fresh sap, pressed from spring buds and shoots of spruce, contain substances that soothe the bronchial tubes and alleviate irritative coughs. A.Vogel’s Soothing cough syrup also contains natural sugars that are very soothing and make the pine syrup taste delicious.

Sinusitis treatment

Sinusitis  is a painful inflammatory and infectious disease of the sinuses that is increasingly frequent. Often recurring and chronic, sinusitis may follow a cold or flu but may also happen by itself. A humid and cold climate, significant temperature variations and high levels of pollution as well as milk products and food allergies are all factors in the development of sinusitis. Sinna™combines homeopathic remedies that work in synergy to fight the swelling of inflamed and infected mucous membranes. It relieves the discomfort and pain of congestion and sinusitis.

Cold and flu prevention tips

Clean up!
Wash your hands with soap and water regularly to help prevent the spread of infection, especially before and after eating, after being in a public place, after using the washroom, after coughing and sneezing, etc.  If you think about it, you regularly touch items that are touched by the hands of many who might not have washed their hands after they last sneezed: door knobs, fridge handle, coffee machine, handrails,  etc.

Get some sleep!
Get at least 8 hours of restful sleep at night, it helps the body repair itself and build the immune system.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water flushes out your system and helps keep your immune system strong.  Heaters make the air quite dry and it is important to drink a lot of water.

Get outside!
Walk for at least 20 minutes outdoors per day.  Find fresh air and breathe deeply.  Enjoy the winter sun for some Vitamin D. Regular exercise has the advantage giving your immune system a boost, and that can help reduce the number of colds you get.

Feed your body whole, natural foods.
Fresh fruit and vegetables contain helpful antioxidants that the body needs to fight off bugs.  Slowly reduce the amount of sugar and sweet foods that you eat. Sugar deprives the body of essential minerals and causes your energy levels to fluctuate, weakening your natural defences.  Our Canadian winters are harsh and fresh produce can be pricy and often disapointing in taste.  Frozen fruits and vegetables offer a good solution since they are picked when ripe and frozen right away to retain as many nutrients as possible.

Kick back and relax!
Sometimes, you have to know when to let off some steam: lack of rest, working too hard, being under too much short-term or long-term stress, etc., are all elements that can weaken your defences.  Allow yourself some down time.

Don’t let your defences go up in smoke!
Smoking obstructs the respiratory tract. This weakening of the lungs causes the respiratory system to be more sensitive to foreign micro-organisms.  Also, smoking lowers levels of protective antioxidants (such as vitamin C), in the blood, making you more vulnerable. Some natural remedies can help you quit the habit .

And…laughter
Your immune system works best when you are happy!  Be happy.

 

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