Natural Health: You’re sick: Is it a cold or the flu? |

Natural Health: You’re sick: Is it a cold or the flu?

Deborah Wiancek
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

It is that time of the year again. How do you know if it’s a cold or the flu? Generally, the flu causes a high fever with severe muscle aches and a dry, severe cough. Colds tend to be milder than the flu but can turn into sinus infections or bronchitis if not dealt with early. Please refer to the chart to the right.

Ninety percent of all colds are due to viral infections, and the flu also is caused by a virus. Antibiotics do not work for viral illnesses. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Overuse of antibiotics has created bacterial resistance. So what should you do if you feel a cold coming on?

Get as much rest as possible. Many people ignore the early signs of illness and keep working until they drop. You will take longer to heal if you allow the illness to get a foothold.

Drink plenty of fluids. Herbal teas such as licorice, elder, ginger and mullein and soups such as chicken or miso soup can help clear the bug out of your system. We formulate a very good cold and flu tea that our patients love for winter.

Start taking anti-viral herbs as soon as possible. A combination is the best. These should include echinacea, astragalus, licorice, osha, schisandra, elderberry and goldenseal. Zinc (30 milligrams/day) has been shown to reduce the duration of a cold. The homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum can work very well for shortening your flu symptoms if taken during the first 24 to 48 hours of the onset of the flu.

How can you reduce your susceptibility of getting a cold or flu? Wash your hands frequently, as hand contact is a primary route of virus spreading. Avoid shaking hands with people. Also, keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes as much as possible.

Keep your stress levels as low as possible. Get sufficient rest and sleep.

Reduce and avoid smoking, alcohol and an unhealthy diet. Cut back on sugar, white flour and refined carbohydrates as much as possible.

Take a good multiple vitamin with the antioxidants vitamin A, C, E and selenium. Vitamin D and probiotics have been shown to be very effective in preventing the flu and building up one’s immune system.

If possible, limit the amount of time around sick people, and stay home when you’re sick to avoid infecting others.

Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician specializing in natural medicine at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards. She can be reached at 970-926-7606, wiancek@health or Follow her on her blog for the latest research in natural medicine at

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