The average Australian child gets as many as 12 colds a year, an adult gets up to four – more if they are in regular contact with snotty children. With all the great advances in medicine, why is it so impossible to eradicate the common cold? For one thing, there are over 200 different viruses you can catch that will produce a cold or flu. So while you may catch one cold and produce the antibodies to stop you from catching this bug again, there are another 199 waiting to strike. Additionally, each of the 200 viruses continually mutates, making it near impossible to eradicate or avoid.
If you think you just need a strong immune system to stop you from catching a cold, think again. If a virus makes it to your nose and you don’t have the antibodies to fight it, 75% of people will come down with a cold, the other 25% will still be infected, they just wont experience the symptoms.
You ‘catch’ a cold or flu when a virus makes it up your nose, or gets in your tear duct. So the best thing you can do to prevent the nasties taking hold is to keep your hands clean and also keep them away from your face.
Although a cold virus needs human cells to reproduce, they can survive and remain infectious on inanimate objects like a phone, keyboard, hand-rail or toy in a doctor’s office. The virus can also stay alive on skin for up to two hours. So if someone with a cold blows their nose, and an hour later shakes your hand, after which time you remove some dust from your eye, you could have caught their cold.
Keeping your body healthy is obviously key to make sure your body has all that it needs to fight an attack of the lurgy. Make sure your diet has plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs and meat. Add some garlic, onions and ginger to main meals for a real immune-boosting kick. If you are going through a particularly stressful time, consider adding some supplements such as vitamin C, zinc and B complex. Another very good immune booster is Asian mushrooms such as reishi which you can buy as a supplement from health food stores or as a tea from a traditional Chinese herbalist.
The first sign of a cold is usually a sore, scratchy throat and a stuffy nose. As soon as you get a warning sign that a cold or flu is on its way, eat one clove of garlic. It’s not the most pleasant activity in the world but it works because of its antiviral effects.
The next step is to make yourself a pot of ginger tea. Put a piece of fresh, peeled ginger in a saucepan with two cups of water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about five minutes. Add two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of manuka honey. Strain and drink.
It’s also a good idea to hit a sore throat with a salt water gargle as soon as it appears. To make, place half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle.
Increase your intake of fluids such as herbal teas, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, broths and of course, water, to keep you hydrated.
Saline nose drops are great for relieving a stuffy nose, especially for kids. Adults can try a nasal decongestant available from chemists.
Although a cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses and so present slightly differently. A flu is usually worse than a cold, and symptoms commonly include fever, body aches and extreme tiredness. Additionally, colds usually clear up in a few days, whereas flu can last a week and result in more serious health problems, such as pneumonia.
The best thing you can do for a full-blown cold or flu is to get adequate rest. If you don’t, your immune system produces fewer of the natural-killer cells needed to destroy cells that are infected with the cold virus. It’s not easy to sleep when you are all stuffed up, so may want to use a humidifier in the bedroom to moisten the air and help clear the nasal passages.
Also, call on a loving friend, family member or local restaurant to deliver you some chicken soup. As well as being packed with nutrients and carbohydrates for energy, Dr Stephen Rennard, a researcher at the University of Nebraska in the US showed that the ingredients in chicken soup actually stimulate the body to fight a cold and flu. Dr Rennard’s recipe includes chicken, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, and parsley.
If your symptoms don’t improve after seven days, or if you have difficulty breathing, a severe headache, or are coughing up green phlegm see your doctor.