Fighting colds and flu the natural way |

Fighting colds and flu the natural way

Sarah Skolout-Reddick
Eagle County CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Cold and flu season has arrived, but there are many natural ways to prevent getting sick and shorten the duration of illness.

Colds and flu are caused by more than 200 different viruses and are not treated effectively by antibiotics. Hand washing is the most proven method to prevent getting sick. Washing your hands after touching public countertops, pens and door handles can significantly reduce the spread of many of the viruses that cause colds. Washing hands only when people around you are sick is not effective at preventing colds. The Center for Disease Control warns that many cold viruses are most contagious before symptoms develop. Frequent hand washing should therefore become a routine during cold and flu season. Soap and warm water is best, but water-free hand sanitizers can be used if a sink is not readily available.

There are hundreds of natural products and over-the-counter medications that claim to treat colds. Many of them have not stood up to their claims in research and some have been found to be harmful. The FDA recently warned that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be used in children under 4 years old, and emerging research suggests they may not be safe in children as old as 12. However, there are safe and effective methods for reducing the symptoms of a cold and its duration.

Staying well hydrated and eating easily digestable food during a cold can help support your body as it fights off the virus. Chicken noodle or vegetable soup are old time favorites that will keep you hydrated and provide essential electrolytes and nutrients to keep your body strong during an illness. Organic or homemade soups are best. Ginger, licorice and chamomile teas are also effective in maintaining hydration and soothing symptoms.

Vitamin C and zinc are well known nutrients in the fight against viruses. Although scientific studies conflict regarding the most effective dose and whether these nutrients treat or prevent colds, evidence at this point suggests they should still be a part of a cold-care routine. Regularly eating foods that are high in vitamin C and zinc or taking a daily multivitamin will ensure you are not deficient in these essential nutrients. When you feel you are getting sick or are in the early stages of a cold, increasing the dose of vitamin C and zinc may help reduce the duration of the cold.

Herbal treatment of colds has become very common, especially with the popularity of Echinacea and goldenseal. Other, lesser known herbs, such as elderberry, ivy leaf, Astragalus and medicinal mushrooms have been used effectively in Europe and Asia for centuries and are gaining wider use in the United States. These herbs are best used under the guidance of a professional trained in herbal medicine and only high quality herbs should be used.

Other home treatments for colds include rest, light exercise and steam inhalations. Sleep and rest during an illness are essential to give your body time to recover and repair. Staying home from school or work and sleeping extra hours can speed recovery. Light exercise, such as going for a walk, has been shown to increase the immune system. Moving around during a cold can also help prevent some serious complications, such as pneumonia. Steam inhalations can help soothe coughs and open sinuses. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a pot of boiling water and breathing the steam opens the airway and has anti-viral properties.

Overall, taking a few simple steps to prevent and treat colds naturally can help you have a healthy, cold-free winter.

Sarah Skolout-Reddick is a naturopathic doctor and certified health fitness specialist at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic and Natural Pharmacy in Edwards. To reach the clinic, call 970-926-7606.

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