1. Vitamin D: One of the tools we can use to not only benefit overall health, but also boost our resilience against colds and flus is Vitamin D. It can also be used to help combat an infection once it occurs. For prevention of colds a flus a typical daily dose for adults in Alberta is around 2000IU daily. When you’re acutely feeling ill, or feeling the onset of a cold or flu, doubling the dose can be helpful short term (ie 3-7 days).
2. Wet sock treatment: Another great tool in the battle against colds and flus is a hydrotherapy technique called Wet Socks. It may sound like a form of torture to some, but this is a highly effective and safe hydrotherapy technique that works wonderfully in children and adults alike. To use this technique soak your feet (or your little ones feet) in hot, but not scalding hot, water until the skin turns pink. Usually this takes about 2-5 minute. Always be sure to test the temperature of the water before fully submersing your feet. A great way to do this with children is for them to have a warm bath, unless there is a fever present. Afterwards dry off your feet, and take a pair of cotton socks that have been sitting in cold water, ice or in the freezer. Wring them out and put them on your feet. Put a thick pair of wool socks over top of the wet, and cold, cotton socks and get yourself tucked into bed! To add additional flu fighting potential, add a drop or two of tea tree, oregano or eucalyptus essential oil to the hot water. Lavender or chamomile essential oils, or teas are great to add for anyone having difficulty sleeping. The Wet Sock technique is great for stuffy noses, congestion, coughs, fevers, and other cold and flu symptoms. Want more information on how to do this? Check out the full handout under the resources tab of my website: www.pinewoodnaturopathic.com or send me an email.
3. Steam inhalations: These are effective for nasal congestion, aggravated sinuses and coughs. Add 3-5 drops of an essential oil such as tea tree, oregano or eucalyptus essential oil to a bowl of very hot water.
4. Stay hydrated: When you’re sick it is always important to stay well hydrated. A great way to do this is can be with flu-buster teas that you can make at home. A good base formula is to boil 1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 sliced or juiced lemon, and a spoonful of honey in 2-4 cups of water for about 5-10 minutes. To up the flu busting power, add in 1 clove of garlic (sliced or grated) and a few slices of onion. To soothe a sore throat, add in an extra spoonful of honey, or a bag of Traditional Medicinals throat coat tea. If the main symptoms are digestive upset, use a mix of ginger, chamomile, mint and lemon to settle the stomach and re-hydrate.
5.) Epsom salt baths. These are great not only to ease aches and pains, they can also be used to bring down a fever if you use tepid, or room temperature, water. Add about 1/2-1 cup of epsom salts to the bathwater. For additional relief feel free to use a few drops of essential oils such as lavender or chamomile to soothe and calm, eucalyptus or tea tree to clear the sinuses, or 1-2 drops of mint or lemon oils to ease nausea.
6.) Eliminate sugar and processed foods. Great advice for general health maintenance, but especially important to support the immune system and decrease inflammation when fighting off a cold or flu.
7.) Sleep. Another lovely tool that helps to prevent colds and flus, and allows us to heal faster. Ensuring you get 7-8 hours of sleep, ideally uninterrupted, is a great start at preventing and fighting colds and flus.
8.) Herbal products. There are many great herbs and herbal products to fight infections, just as there are many that either do not contain the right doses, or the right herbs. Often these are best used when they are chosen to fit you and your specific health concerns. I suggest speaking with a health care provider, like an ND, about which work best for you and if you need to worry about interactions with any medicines or other natural health products that you are taking. However, one that is safe and easy for most people to use is Echinacea. It can be an excellent anti-viral if you start taking it when exposed to a cold or flu, or as soon as symptoms come on. There are many great formulas and teas available. If you have a ragweed allergy, or certain autoimmune or chronic health concerns, avoid using Echinacea. Likewise, Licorice root is a very soothing, and powerful antiviral herb that is a great cold and flu fighter, however, those with high blood pressure or on certain medications should avoid using it.
8.) Garlic. A wonderful flu buster unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to sulpha drugs or sulfur containing foods. This can be used as a food, as a spice, or as a supplement. Adding it to a flu buster tea can be a great way to stay hydrated and benefit from the garlic. Have cough or dry itchy throat as well? Onions are a great addition in foods or teas and will help to soothe the mucous membranes.
Your greatest tool against a cold or flu? Listening to your body and allowing yourself to rest while fighting an infection. Many people believe that they can continue all of their daily routines while battling a cold or flu, and as a consequence need to use medications to mask the symptoms instead of resting and recovering. This is more likely to draw out the duration of an infection and cause you to be infectious to others for a longer period of time.
Of course this is just an overview of prevention and treatments. If you’re concerned that you may have the flu, or you’re not sure when a fever is too high, when a cough has lasted too long, or if something else is going on, always seek medical advice from a licensed professional such as your MD or ND, or give a call to Health Link (1 866 408 5465 toll-free in AB).