12 Tips to Battle Colds and Flu the "Natural" Way
(Charles B. Inlander, President of The People's Medical Society)
With no cure in sight for the cold or the flu, current treatments can at best bring symptom relief or shorten the duration of those symptoms. You can take one of a variety of medications that may help relieve your symptoms. Or you can take the natural approach. Here are some home remedies that may speed your recovery, and help you feel better along the way.
#1 Know When Not To Treat Symptoms
Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you're experiencing are part of the natural healing process -- evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body's way of trying to kill viruses in a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever's hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant, like Sudafed, restricts flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increase blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.
#2 Blow Your Nose Often (And the Right Way)
It's important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can carry germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.
#3 Treat That Stuffy Nose With Warm Salt Water
Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion, while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here's a popular recipe:
Mix ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Use a bulb syringe to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat 2-3 times, then treat the other nostril.
#4 Stay Warm and Rested
Staying warm and resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by lying down under a blanket.
Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle -- such as tea that contains tannin -- to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, popular in folk medicine. Seep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
#6 Drink Hot Liquids
Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. If you're so congested you can't sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and 1 small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol inflames those membranes and is counterproductive.
#7 Take a Steamy Shower
Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you're dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.
#8 Use a Salve Under Your Nose
A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can open breathing passages and help restore the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.
#9 Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses
Either temperature works. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore. Or make your own. Take a damp washcloth and heat it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it's right for you.) Or take a small bag of frozen peas to use as a cold pack.
#10 Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your Head
This will help relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.
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But what can you do when cold & flu season hits? Choose the natural answer --
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#11 Don't Fly Unless Necessary
There's no point adding stress to your already stressed-out upper respiratory system, and that's what the change in air pressure will do. Flying with cold or flu congestion can temporarily damage your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, use a decongestant and carry a nasal spray with you to use just before takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing frequently can also help relieve pressure.
#12 Eat Infection-Fighting Foods
Here are some good foods to eat when you're battling a cold or flu:
Remember, serious conditions can masquerade as the common cold: sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat, and asthma. If you have severe symptoms, or feel sicker with each passing day, call your doctor.