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.

Prevent Colds

woman trying to prevent colds and flus

How to Prevent Colds and Flus

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Looking to waltz through cold and flu season unscathed and prevent colds and flus?  Here are 5 tips to stay cold and flu free this year:

  1. Up your vitamin D intake.  This time of year you want to be taking more than your usual dose of vitamin D to make up for shorter days and very little exposed skin to sunlight. A trip south may also help increase your vitamin D but also help fend of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Personally, I can’t wait for March Break and some warmth and sunshine.
  2. Cut food sensitivities out of your diet.  How can your immune system fight off viruses if it’s busy fighting off your lunch?  If you know you have a dairy sensitivity, avoid dairy. Ok, well maybe after the holiday parties are over.
  3. Eat more ginger – Ginger helps protect against viruses by blocking viral attachment and internalization.  Ginger tea and curries are good ways to incorporate more ginger. There are lots of healthy ways to add some extra ginger to your diet on our recipe page: Gingerbread Cookie Tea, Apricot Ginger Chicken, and Ginger Pear Energy Bars are just a few.
  4. Reduce your intake of sugar sweetened beverages – pop, energy drinks, lattés, chocolate milk, fruit drinks, shakes, and anything else with added sugar. We know sugar suppresses the immune system for at least 3 hours after consumption.  Drink this Cinnamon Chai, Gingerbread Cookie Tea, or New Year’s Resolution Smoothie instead.
  5. Drink green tea. Green tea is the perfect immune system boosting drink. Green tea contains a substance called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This substance can fight bacteria and prevent viruses from multiplying. Green Tea Cheesecake anyone?

Wanting more advice about how to prevent colds or flus, what to take or do if you get a cold or flu or what to do if you are feeling the first signs of a cold or flu?  See one of our licensed naturopathic doctors today.

Want to know when to see a doctor about a cold or flu?  Want to know what should be in your cold and flu prevention tool box? Download and save Dr. Pamela’s handy infographic here:

prevent colds and flu

 

Looking for even more information about colds and flus, natural remedies for colds and flus, tips to stay healthy, herbal remedies for colds and flus, quizzes and immune system assessments?  Purchase the full Cold and Flu ebook here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/595481

 

Antibiotics are Not For Colds

woman with a cold sneezing wondering about antibiotics

Should You Take Antibiotics for Colds?

Every time they come down with something, some people beg their doctor for antibiotics that:

  1. Can cause diarrhea and destroy healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
  2. Land more than 140,000 people in the emergency room every year
  3. Only help about one in 4,000 patients avoid a serious complication
  4. And do nothing to relieve their symptoms (because they only work for bacteria, not the viruses that are causing their cold symptoms)

Antibiotics are well known to be useless for colds, influenza, most sore throats and the vast majority of bronchitis cases, because those illnesses are caused by viruses. Antibiotics kill only bacteria. Every time people take unneeded antibiotics, they encourage the growth of bacterial strains that resist antibiotics, creating hard-to-control “superbugs” like MRSA.

Nonetheless, half of antibiotic prescriptions still go to people with viral illnesses.

There is a time and place for antibiotics and they save many lives, but they need to be used sparingly and judiciously.

Here are better options than taking antibiotics when you have a cold or the flu:

  1. Do all the things you know you should do to keep your immune system healthy – get good sleep, reduce your stress, drink lots of water, avoid sugar and processed foods, cut out alcohol.
  2. Boost your immune system’s efforts to fight off the virus with herbs like echinacea and reishi mushroom extract.
  3. Whip up some Gingerbread Cookie tea to help ease your cold symptoms:Gingerbread Cookie Tea for Colds

    5-6 cups of water

    Fresh ginger root sliced (~ 2 tbsps)

    A couple of cinnamon sticks

    ½ teaspoon lemon or orange zest

    Bring to a boil briefly; reduce to a simmer in a pot with a tight fitting lid for 20-40 minutes (10 minutes for kids).

    In a mug put:

    Juice of ½ lemon

    1 teaspoon raw honey

    Add the simmered ginger, cinnamon, citrus peel decoction and enjoy. Reheat on stove throughout the day. This formula tastes good, is antimicrobial, anti nauseant, clears mucous, and helps enhance or clear a fever.