How to Avoid and Treat the Common Cold

sick woman holding pill packages

How to Avoid and Treat the Common Cold

It’s cold season again!
The common cold brings with it sneezing, runny nose, and sometimes coughing and/or a sore throat. It may also be accompanied by a mild fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. The common cold is caused by a virus which is spread from one person to the next via respiratory droplets (i.e. sneezing, coughing, shaking hands, sharing cups, etc.). Although most colds resolve within a week, they may lead to ear infections (especially in children), bronchitis, or sinusitis. Colds are more common in fall and winter months- probably because we stay indoors and are therefore in closer contact with infected individuals, more often. Although there is conflicting evidence, lower humidity during winter months and the dry air pumped out by our heating systems may also contribute to increased incidence of colds in winter. In addition, there is some research to suggest that, in at least some people, exposure to cold air may increase susceptibility to colds.Let’s talk PREVENTION:
Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or when touching your face.
Get plenty of rest and relaxation; stress acts as a powerful immune-suppressant making us more vulnerable to catching colds.
Recent research has shown than supplementing with a multivitamin-mineral and probiotic may boost the immune system and help prevent and fight the common cold. Ask your naturopath to recommend a high quality multivitamin and probiotic formula.
Another recent study suggests that gargling with water followed by spitting three times a day may also decrease the likelihood of contracting a cold.
Eat a good diet high in fruits and vegetables, protein, and essential fatty acids.
Avoid smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke which increases your risk of contracting a cold.

What to do once you’ve “caught a cold”:
This is your body’s message to you to SLOW DOWN. You need plenty of rest in order to recover. Use your cold as a free pass to take the day off work (your co-workers will thank you) and curl up in bed with a good book and some chicken soup!
If you have a fever (below 104 degrees), unless you are quite uncomfortable, or cannot sleep, there is not need to suppress it. In fact, a fever is one of your immune system’s ways of fighting infection.
Saline nasal spray may be used to relieve congestion (especially in young children who have not learned how to blow their noses). You or your child may also benefit from adding some menthol, eucalyptus, or pine oil to a humidifier in your room or to your bath water.
The wet sock treatment is a simple and effective way to increase immunity and decrease congestion. Please see our July 2006 Newsletter for complete instructions.
Drink plenty of fluids including water and herbal teas to loosed secretions. Honey (which has antimicrobial properties) and lemon (which helps to break up mucous) are a good addition to tea or water. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary beverages.
Eat lightly so that your body’s energy can be directed towards fighting the virus, rather than digesting heavy foods. Avoid sugar since it is known to depress immune system function. Eat foods high in antioxidants (such as deeply colored fruits and vegetables) and add plenty of fresh garlic and onions to your diet.
Many supplements have been found to be helpful in strengthening your immune system. Among them are Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene, Zinc, and Bioflavonoids. Consult your naturopath for suggestions on how to take these.
Herbal remedies and homeopathics also offer a tool in the fight against the common cold. Immune boosting herbs and those with antimicrobial properties are frequently prescribed. It is important to use high quality remedies at an appropriate dose. Also, bear in mind that herbal remedies, like traditional medications, can have side effects. Once again, you should consult your naturopathic doctor, or an herbalist for a plan of care appropriate to you.

If your cold does not resolve within ten days or if you develop a productive cough, ear infection, or sinusitis, please consult a physician. In addition, individuals with depressed immunity (for example, those infected with HIV and young infants), and those who have an underlying respiratory disorder (such as emphysema or asthma) should also consult a physician when they contract a cold.

Please Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment. You are free to use the information in this newsletter or pass it on to others, but please keep it intact and credit it to Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND.

Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND
Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND

Dr. Kuzniar is a board member of the New Jersey Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is also a member of the Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She currently holds a State of Vermont Naturopathic Physician license (as New Jersey does not yet offer licensing for Naturopathic doctors).