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.
#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 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 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
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
#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
#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
#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.
#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:
? Bananas: Soothe upset stomachs.
? Bell Peppers: Loaded with vitamin C.
? Blueberries: Curbs diarrhea, high in natural aspirin. (May lower
fevers and help with the aches and pains.)
? Carrots: Loaded with beta-carotene.
? Chili Peppers: Can open sinuses, and help break up mucus in the
? Cranberries: Help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining
the bladder and urinary tract.
? Mustard & Horseradish: Helps break up mucus in air passages.
? Onion: Has phytochemicals purported to help the body clear
bronchitis and other infections.
? Rice: Curbs diarrhea.
? Tea: Black and green tea (not herbals) contain catechin, a
phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea
12 Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu the "Natural" Way
Since there are no known cures for colds and flu, prevention must be
your goal. A proactive approach to warding off colds and flu is apt to
make your whole life healthier. The most effective way to prevent flu,
frankly, is to get the flu shot. It may not be natural, but it works
better than anything else. But there are other strategies you can
employ as well.
#1 Wash Your Hands
Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who
has the flu sneezes onto their hand, and then touches the telephone,
the keyboard, a kitchen glass. The germs can live for hours -- in some
cases weeks -- only to be picked up by the next person who touches the
same object. So wash your hands often. If no sink is available, rub
your hands together very hard for a minute or so. That also helps break
up most of the cold germs.
#2 Don't Cover Your Sneezes and Coughs With Your Hands
Because germs and viruses cling to your bare hands, muffling coughs and
sneezes with your hands results in passing along your germs to others.
When you feel a sneeze or cough coming, use a tissue, then throw it
away immediately. If you don't have a tissue, turn your head away from
people near you and cough into the air.
#3 Don't Touch Your Face
Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds, and a key
way they pass colds on to their parents.
#4 Drink Plenty of Fluids
Water flushes your system, washing out the poisons as it rehydrates
you. A typical, healthy adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids
each day. How can you tell if you're getting enough liquid? If the
color of your urine runs close to clear, you're getting enough. If it's
deep yellow, you need more fluids.
#5 Take a Sauna
Researchers aren't clear about the exact role saunas play in
prevention, but one 1989 German study found that people who steamed
twice a week got half as many colds as those who didn't. One theory:
When you take a sauna you inhale air hotter than 80 degrees, a
temperature too hot for cold and flu viruses to survive.
#6 Get Fresh Air
A regular dose of fresh air is important, especially in cold weather
when central heating dries you out and makes your body more vulnerable
to cold and flu viruses. Also, during cold weather more people stay
indoors, which means more germs are circulating in crowded, dry rooms.
#7 Do Aerobic Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of
blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs
to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These
exercises help increase the body's natural virus-killing cells.
#8 Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals
"Phyto" means plants, and the natural chemicals in plants give the
vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So put away the vitamin pill,
and eat dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits.
#9 Eat Yogurt
Some studies have shown that eating a daily cup of low-fat yogurt can
reduce your susceptibility to colds by 25 percent. Researchers think
the beneficial bacteria in yogurt may stimulate production of immune
system substances that fight disease.
#10 Don't Smoke
Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more
Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries
out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate
hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, and with
their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal
passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as
long as 30 to 40 minutes.
#11 Cut Alcohol Consumption
Heavy alcohol use destroys the liver, the body's primary filtering
system, which means that germs of all kinds won't leave your body as
fast. The result is, heavier drinkers are more prone to initial
infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates
the body -- it actually takes more fluids from your system than it puts
If you can teach yourself to relax, you can activate your immune
system on demand. There's evidence that when you put your relaxation
skills into action, your interleukins -- leaders in the immune system
response against cold and flu viruses -- increase in the bloodstream.
Train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant or calming. Do
this 30 minutes a day for several months. Keep in mind, relaxation is a
learnable skill, but it is not doing nothing. People who try to relax,
but are in fact bored, show no changes in blood chemicals.
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity
JOIN THE NEW COSMIC COMMENTARY LIST