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Treating Cold and Flu

Treating Cold and Flu

With The Cold and Flu Season Approaching, It Is Best To Have Your Winter Toolkit Ready

Influenza, usually referred to as the flu, is an infectious viral respiratory illness, and unlike the common cold, the flu can develop into something a lot more serious than the common cold, such as pneumonia if it is not handled and treated correctly. Flu is spread by coughing and sneezing and can prove to be extremely debilitating, although patients usually start feeling better within a week or so.

Young children and the elderly as well as women who are pregnant are particularly susceptible to getting the flu. Those who have any pre-existing health issues are also prone to catching flu - this includes individuals that have HIV, asthma, heart conditions and pregnant women.

One can catch flu at any time of the year, although it is especially prevalent during the colder winter months, and therefore is referred to as “seasonal flu”.

Flu seasons can prove to be rather unpredictable.  While epidemics happen every year, the timing, severity and the length of the season vary from one year to the next. As flu viruses are constantly changing and evolving, it is not unusual for new strains to make their appearance annually.

In South Africa, the flu season usually runs from autumn through to the spring, typically peaking during the winter months, although you can catch flu all year round. The flu virus is spread in the same way as the common cold, although flu usually spreads faster than the common cold.

Typical symptoms of the flu are:

  • High temperatures (38°C and above).
  • Fever and chills.
  • Sore throat.
  • Muscle and body ache.
  • Fatigue and a general feeling of weakness.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Blocked or runny nose.

The common cold on the other hand:

In the region of 22 million school and workdays are lost in the US each year due to the common cold. The symptoms of the common cold can last for up to two weeks but symptoms are usually milder than those of flu, plus they can be dealt with quite easily.

According to the Mayo Clinic there are in excess of 100 different viruses that are the cause of the common cold, although the rhinovirus is perhaps the most common of these, causing individuals to cough and sneeze which can prove to be highly contagious.

The first line of defence when you feel that cold or the flu coming on:

The trick with any cold or flu is to go in hard and fast with a combination of remedies.

  • Take high doses of vitamins A and C – studies have proven that people taking high doses of vitamin C reported a reduction in the incidence, severity and the duration of colds and flu. Take doses of 2 000mg to 5 000 mg of powdered mineral ascorbate until signs of the infection have subsided.
  • Olive leaf extract acts as a natural antibiotic – ask your medical practitioner or pharmacist, or drink olive leaf tea.
  • Take an immune booster.
  • Use a gargle or saltwater if you feel a sore throat coming on.
  • Do a nasal wash to clear the virus from your respiratory system.
  • Make a strong ginger and lemon tea by grating fresh ginger in hot water and add lemon juice– the ginger assists with mobilising secretions. Try to drink this throughout the day when you start feeling ill.
  • Hydrating is also important – drink plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of rest – your body is run down and needs time to recover to fight off the infection.

How to optimise your immune system to stay healthy:

  • Avoiding foods that decrease the immune system is a must – these include simple sugars from refined carbs as they have shown to reduce the function of the white blood cells.
  • Avoid processed foods and those that are high in toxins – meat and animal products are in general difficult to digest plus they contain toxins such as hormones, pesticides and antibiotics and therefore add an extra burden on the body.
  • Many herbs and spices such as turmeric, coriander, basil, rosemary, oregano and cayenne pepper all have high antioxidant properties which will assist with boosting the immune system.
  • Food additives such as sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives put a strain on the body’s natural detox system and will lead to a compromised immune system.
  • Research has indicated that fish oil reduces inflammatory reactions and regulates the immune function.
  • The strength of the immune system depends on the quality of what you eat; typical immune-boosting diets contain a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, cold-pressed oils, garlic, protein-rich foods and seeds. There is no time quite like the present to cut out all the highly processed, highly refined food products from your regular diet.

When you should see your medical practitioner:

  • If you are pregnant or over the age of 65, it is recommended that you pay your doctor a visit when you catch flu.
  • If you are living with a chronic disease such as HIV, diabetes, heart or lung ailments, renal conditions or neurological diseases, it is important to visit your medical professional.
  • If your immune system is compromised – for example, if you are undergoing chemotherapy or have HIV, you need to see your medical practitioner.
  • Don’t leave chest pains, shortness of breath, coughing of blood and problems with breathing to chance – instead pay your emergency rooms or your GP a visit right away to avoid any complications.

Doctors often recommend you take antiviral medication to reduce symptoms and to assist in your quick recovery.

A pro-active approach to your lifestyle can go a long way towards the prevention of colds and flu:

Sleep and relaxation:

Sleep is nature’s way of assisting the body in replenishing the immune system, eliminate free radicals, ward off heart disease and address mood imbalances.

When you have the flu, ensure you get plenty of rest and sleep. Go to bed and do not continue with regular activities give you body and immune system a chance to deal with the matter on hand.

Taking supplements:

Taking a good quality multivitamin supplement is always a great idea because few modern diets provide everything we need to stay healthy.

An excellent whole food supplement such as barley green is great for keeping your immune system up and running- this is because it contains nutrients that work synergistically.

Barley grass has one of the highest natural chlorophyll-rich contents of all green vegetables.

Don’t do these when you have the flu:

  • Avoid vigorous exercise especially cardio if you have a viral infection or a fever as it will put you at risk of developing viral myocarditis.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unless it is necessary – antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
  • Most colds and flu are caused by viral infections which means they do not respond to antibiotics.
  • They are self-limiting illnesses; this is when a healthy immune system deals with the infection all by itself.
  • Don’t drink ice-cold drinks or consume cold food; viruses will replicate in a cold environment – instead think hot and healthy.
  • Dairy increases the production of mucous – so avoid all dairy when you have a cold or the flu.

Stop the spread of flu by avoiding any unnecessary contact with other people while you are infectious. Stay off from work or from school until you are feeling better – with some individuals the risk is more serious and an annual flu vaccine is then recommended. And remember - see your health practitioner if your flu persists, if it gets worse of if a bacterial infection sets in.

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