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Practical Advice for Cold and Flu Season

Susanna Sisson's picture

So, you’ve caught a bug and it seems to have taken hold and doesn’t want to let go. What do you do? There are many things most people don’t think of when they are sick and simply don’t want to do, but even something as simple as drinking more water not only helps with symptoms, but may also help prevent an infection.


What can you do to prevent and get over symptoms faster?

• Wash your hands. Pretty simple. We all learned that in kindergarten.

• Clean your work area. Cold germs can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, so it’s a good idea to clean your phone, computer, and anything that other people may touch. Researchers from MIT found that gas bubbles from a sneeze, known as “multiphase turbulent buoyant bubbles” that may contain viruses can travel as far as 200 feet. [1]

• Stay home from work. It may hurt your budget in the short term but in the long run getting rest will help most people get over a cold or flu faster. And while your boss may be pushing for productivity, if you go to work sick you’re exposing co-workers.

• Drink more water. Dehydration can lead to headache, irritability and a lowered immune system. Every cell needs water to function. In addition to keeping you hydrated, water helps thin secretions that make you feel stuffy and can make breathing more difficult.

• Eat whole unprocessed foods and avoid sugar. Sugar feeds bacteria and viruses. When your grandmother suggested chicken soup, she was right.

• Vitamin C and zinc are helpful in preventing illness but can also decrease the time you are sick.

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• Avoid alcohol which causes dehydration.

• Avoid over-the-counter products like anti-histamines which while they do have a drying effect can make you dependent in as little as 3 days and keep you sick longer. Instead use saline drops or sprays which may help prevent an infection. If you do get sick, however, saline can help moisten, clear out mucous and prevent the sinuses from getting blocked.

• Consider natural cold remedies like elderberry and Echinacea to help relieve symptoms. [2]

• Use a cold humidifier. Heated air is naturally more drying and can cause tiny breaks in the skin and mucous membranes that allow bacteria or viruses entrance. Don’t use a heated humidifier that can actually grow bacteria.

• Do exercise. Turning into a couch potato when you have a cold may seem attractive but unless you’re got a fever, it would be more beneficial to your immune system to go out for a walk and fresh air. Exercise also maintains a healthy immune system and can help prevent getting sick.

• Avoid smoke which contains hundreds of toxins, including carbon monoxide. If you are a smoker, now would be a great time to stop. But, even if you don’t smoke, second-hand smoke can be just as harmful. Smoke, even in small amounts and even smoke produced by incense or candles can paralyze the tiny cilia inside the lungs and cause mucous to get trapped inside and allow growth of microbes. If you insist on burning candles make sure you have good ventilation.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


1. http://news.mit.edu/2014/coughs-and-sneezes-float-farther-you-think
2. http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/natural-cold-and-flu-treatments/