The best natural remedies for cold and flu

Time tested methods of comfort Photo: Cold and flu/ AP

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2013 — Colds and flues are part of life.  With more than 200 rhinoviruses known to cause the common cold, it is unlikely that will change any time soon.

In general, a cold or flu will last approximately a week. The trick is to reduce symptoms to try and be comfortable and live as normal life as possible while dealing with the cold.

Antibiotics will not help a cold or flu. Antibiotics treat bacteria based ailment not viruses. Those who take antibiotics to fight a cold may be hurting themselves by increasing resistance to antibiotics while receiving no relief for their current ailment.

Zinc is a mineral that may prevent some proteins that are used by cold viruses to reproduce and therefore may shorten the duration of cold symptoms. However, zinc does not prevent colds. Zinc is effective if taken within the first 24 hours after contracting a cold. Zinc lozenges are preferred over the nasal spray which has been known to permanently diminish or stop the nose from detecting odors.

Echinacea is an herb reported to improve the immune system and fight infection. However, no study has provided definite proof Echinacea is effective against the cold or flu.

Vitamin C has been shown in studies to shorten the duration of a cold but only by about one day. Multiple studies show, however, that 2,000 milligrams daily may ward off a cold. Humans cannot manufacture vitamin C, so it is a good idea to take the supplement, even though some complain that the 2,000 milligram dose causes gastric upset.

Garlic has a long history of germ fighting and at least one study has indicated that garlic may prevent colds if ingested daily.

Nose sprays are good but a saline spray or saline solution is better than typical sprays. Saline is a gentle, natural means to reduce congestion without the addictive properties of some nasal sprays. When blowing your nose, only do one nostril at a time with a gentle burst. To do both with a blast may drive infection into the ear canal.

Menthol ointments are beneficial to relieve pain from raw skin that results from attending a cold and can provide pleasant, medicated vapors into your nose and open clogged passages. Do not put menthol into the nasal cavity but under and around the nose and chest.

Salt water gargling is an old stand-by that can relieve a sore throat and keep it moistened.

Nasal strips are very good at keeping nasal passages free and clear, particularly at night when the head may be positioned poorly for drainage.

Fever is the primary complaint of cold and flu sufferers. Fever is your body’s way of fighting back so if you reduce your fever by taking aspirin or acetaminophen, you may prolong your ailment.  Granted, fever is not comfortable but this is how the body kills off intruders.

Rest is essential to restore energy. Your body needs all its tools to fight and if you do not rest, you could be setting the stage for a prolonged a cold or flu and get sick from resource depletion.

Hot toddies and tea provide relief and encourage sleep but do not actively fight off viruses.

The best way to stem a cold or flu is prevention. The viruses associated with colds and flu are transferred from one infected person to another primarily by hands to surfaces then surfaces to hand and faces. Keep hands clean by constantly washing them and avoid using bare hands on public accessed suffices.

Many retailers provide bottles of hand sanitizer or moist towel sanitizers at their doors to use after handling carts, restroom surfaces and the like. Use them liberally and rub vigorously.

Keep home and office surfaces sanitized and be aware that most anti-bacterial (also called anti-microbial or germicidal) products must be left on the surface for 10 to 15 minutes in order for them to work. Spraying on then wiping right off will not do. Read the fine print on the can or bottle.

These natural remedies are best as they are easiest on the body, time tested and as good as harsh chemicals.

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist.


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Paul R. Mountjoy

Paul Mountjoy is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science

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