Flu Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

woman suffering from the flu

Cold & Flu Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

What is a cold?

A cold is an infection that is caused by one of up to 100 different viruses. The most common cold virus is called the rhinovirus. The prefix rhino is latin for “nose”. Coronaviruses and adenoviruses can also cause colds. These viruses can infect the respiratory tract (the nose, sinus cavities, throat, bronchi and lungs) and sometimes cause a stomach flu (gastroenteritis).

The symptoms of a cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or itchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sinus pressure
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild body aches
  • Phlegm in the nose, sinuses and/or throat
  • Redness of the eyes

What is the flu?

The flu is also an illness caused by a viral infection, typically one of three viruses: influenza A, B or C viruses.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be very similar to cold symptoms, but think cold symptoms on steroids! Symptoms may include:

  • Body aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Moderate to high fever
  • Feeling run down
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The main difference between a cold and the flu is the severity of symptoms. The flu tends to be more severe and debilitating. Where colds are not fatal, in those with a compromised immune system, the flu can be fatal.

How long am I contagious with a cold or the flu?

You can be contagious even before the onset of symptoms, and throughout the duration of the cold or flu.

When am I most infectious? Before symptoms? At the start of symptoms? In the midst?

You are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of a cold or the flu. Your ability to spread the virus continues throughout the illness.

How can I avoid transmitting a cold or the flu to my friends and family?

Keep your secretions to yourself! Viruses are transmitted through contact with infected body fluids.

  • If you are sneezing or coughing, turn away from others and be sure to cover your mouth and nose, preferably with your sleeve and not your hand.
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before handling community property like keyboards, phones, remote controls or preparing food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If possible, avoid being around a vulnerable person (infant, elderly, pregnant, diabetic, asthmatic, immune suppressed) while you are sick. If that’s not possible, keep physical contact to a minimum and/or wear an N95 face mask. The person who wants to avoid contracting the cold/flu can also wear a face mask.

Flu Prevention

Here are my top 6 tips to prevent the flu:

  1. Vitamin C – 1000 mg 3-6 times per day
  2. Vitamin D – at a minimum of 1000 IU for adults
  3. Exercise – at least 1 hour of physical activity every day
  4. Avoid sugar and white carbs – excessive amounts of even whole grains can slow down your immune system.  Instead, focus on healthy protein sources, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains like quinoa and amaranth, moderate amounts of fruit and legumes.
  5. Reduce your stress – Stress hormones like cortisol suppress your immune system.  Divest yourself of problems that are causing stress, and if you can’t add in lots of anti-stress techniques like yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage therapy or even just slow, deep breathing several times per day.
  6. Prioritize sleep – with busy lives, sleep can take a back seat.  Sleep is your body and your immune system’s chance to recover and restore you for the next day.  A minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep per night is vital for adults, at least 10 hours for children 8-16 years old and at least 11-12 hours for children under 8.

Already done all that?  Ok, well here is the next level flu prevention & fight the flu regimen:

Echinacea

Echinacea is our favourite immune-boosting herb.  It can be safely taken throughout flu season as a preventative.  It was previously thought that you had to take a break from echinacea, this has since been disproven. I have people take one tablet twice per day of echinacea that contains 600 mg of Echinacea purpurea root and 675 mg of Echinacea angustifolia root, containing 2.1 and 2.0 mg of alkylamides respectively.  This helps keep their immune system strong and healthy.

An Immune Boosting Tincture

Tinctures are alcohol based liquids that may contain single herbs or combinations.  For boosting the immune system we may use a combination like this: Echinacea Root (Echinacea angustifolia), Osha Root (Ligusticum porterii), Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis), Red Clover Flowers (Trifolium pratense), Cleavers Herb(Galium aparine), Borage Herb (Borago officinalis).  These herbs work together to boost the immune system, help the lymphatic system drain, reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, viruses and yeast.

Garlic Extract

One of the active ingredients in garlic that helps fight infection is called allicin.  When you eat garlic, your gut will create some allicin from the garlic you have eaten.  A more direct route to get allicin is to take it in its stabilised form.  Ajoene is another active component of garlic.  It has been found to have anti-thrombotic, anti-tumoral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects.  We use 200 mg of a garlic oil and parsley oil blend that contains 20 mg of the active ingredients of garlic, including ajoene, 1-3 capsules per day.

Olive Leaf Extract (Olea europaea)

Another favourite immune booster and anti-viral is olive leaf extract.  The positive effects of olive leaf extract include antioxidant properties and effective immune support against opportunistic microbes.  Oleuropein, a constituent of olive leaves, was found to be broken down in the body to elenolic acid, which is believed to be its most active component.  The effect of olive leaf extract is that it helps prevent microbes from multiplying.  We use a product that is standardized to 20% oleuropein.  We recommend 1000 mg of olive leaf extract 3 times per day for 10 days when you are fighting a  cold or the flu.

For specific advice about how to treat or prevent the flu and whether any of these is right for you, see one of our naturopathic doctors.  I’m sorry but we are not legally allowed to provide advice via email to people that we have not seen in person and performed a full first assessment on.

Cold & Flu Research

Ledezma E, Apitz-Castro R. Ajoene the main active compound of garlic (Allium sativum): a new antifungal agent. Rev Iberoam Micol. 2006 Jun;23(2):75-80.

Thank you!
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