It’s That Time of Year Again: Prepping for Cold and Flu Season

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What could be more beneficial to you in the advent of the Common Cold/Flu  season than knowledge on how to treat and prevent them from occurring in the first place?  Except maybe some of JJ’s chicken soup (which is pretty darn good, by the way….I make it with rice and a ton of celery and carrots)?  Well, I can’t send all the soup, so this will have to suffice.  Take this info along with you as the weather cools and you’re spending more time camping and hiking in the cold weather.

 

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It’s That Time of Year Again: Prepping for Cold and Flu Season

nutrition

What could be more beneficial to you in the advent of the Common Cold/Flu  season than knowledge on how to treat and prevent them from occurring in the first place?  Except maybe some of JJ’s chicken soup (which is pretty darn good, by the way….I make it with rice and a ton of celery and carrots)?  Well, I can’t send all the soup, so this will have to suffice.  Take this info along with you as the weather cools and you’re spending more time camping and hiking in the cold weather.

 

The Cold Hard Facts on the Common Cold

The Common Cold is defined as an acute infection of any and all parts of the respiratory tract from the nasal mucosa to the nasal sinuses, throat, larynx, trachea, and bronchi. Most people come down with a cold at least once per year.  School-aged children are most susceptible due to the facts that their immune system is not as highly developed as and adults, and that they are in close proximity to a larger “pool” of sick little minnows.  Perhaps that is where the word “school” takes its true meaning!  Cigarette smokers also have a higher risk and longer recovery time for the cold.

In terms of etiology, more than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold.  Some examples are rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses.  For this reason (size and diversity of the viral origin) it is very difficult to identify the exact cause of the organism.  The colds are never really cured; for the most part, the symptoms are addressed and an attempt is made to ameliorate the sufferer’s condition.  The common cold causes more lost work time and absence from school than any other ailment.

On average, people in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion each year on nonprescription medicines and treatments for the common cold and its symptoms.The symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • the swelling of nasal mucosa, increased mucus production
  • cough
  • swelling of the throat lining
  • sinus pressure with or without watery eyes
  • lethargy
  • loss of sleep.

The symptoms can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.  Should the cold run longer than 10 days, be accompanied by fever, or have systemic conditions, this may be an indication that something more serious is underlying.  In this case, contact your physician for an appointment immediately.

How to Get Better

The offending organism/virus may be present in nasal secretions for 1 week or even longer past the initial onset of the signs and symptoms.  It is important for this reason alone to dispose of all Kleenex and tissue paper used to expel mucous, and to control handkerchiefs so they have no contact with anyone else.  As mentioned earlier, patients treat the symptoms and suffer through the cold until it has run its course.  There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to the cold-afflicted person.

Analgesics: painkillers for aches, pains, and muscular soreness; some are also fever-reducers; these include Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Aspirin, and Ibuprofen (Motrin).  Follow the instructions on the label. Generally they should be taken with food and water.

Antihistamines: these decrease the nasal secretions of mucous by blocking the actions of histamine. One example is Chlorpheniramine.

Cough Medicines: these fall into two general categories – 1. Expectorants: these increase the amount of phlegm and mucous production to make the cough more productive; the secretions gradually remove the organism. An example is Guaifenisin. 2. Antitussives: these reduce the coughing. Dextromethorphan is an example.

Decongestants: they shrink the blood vessels of the nasal passages and help to relieve edema (swelling) and the congestion.  An example is Pseudeoephedrine hydrochloride (Sudafed), of which now you have to show your driver’s license to buy it OTC: government approval to insure you’re not using it to make Methamphetamines.

There are also some natural aids that can help in your supportive care and may aid in your recovery.  Vitamin C is recommended by Dr. Balch to fight cold viruses, in amounts ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 mg daily.Although citrus fruits and juices are rich in Vitamin C, you’ll have to find a reliable supplement to provide the amounts listed in the above recommendation.

Eucalyyptus oil can be found in your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart and in your health food stores.  The oil is useful in combating congestion.  Place 5 drops in your bath, or 6 drops per cup of boiling water as a steam inhalant to loosen the congestion.  Read any instructions on the label from the manufacturer.

Tea Tree oil can also be found in the aforementioned sources.  The oil is helpful with sore throats.  Place 3-6 drops in warm water and gargle with it up to 3 times per day, and remember: do not drink it.  Spit it out.  Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label, as different brands have different concentrations.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is (as usual) the all-around wonder herb.  Garlic is effective in preventing the common cold, reducing recovery time, and reducing symptom duration. The herb is available in capsule or tablet form  in the aforementioned establishments, and as a solid or aqueous extract in your health food concerns.  Daily dosage is 4 grams of fresh garlic per day.  A clove can be consumed 1-2 times per day, or up to 8 mg essential oil.

Influenza

Influenza is another virus to worry about during the colder months. It has plagued man throughout the ages and is only now in the “infancy stages” of being understood, especially in function.  The disease (seasonal) is described as being an acute, contagious, respiratory infection with fever, headache, and cough, originating with a virus (influenza A, in 65% of cases, or influenza B, in 35% of cases). Incubation is usually 1-3 days with the illness running its course in about a week. There are more than 400 types of viruses.  Current antiviral medications include amantadine and rimantadine.

Over-the-counter medications are for treatment of symptoms while the body is fighting the infection and recovering.  Such medications are guaifenisin (an expectorant),acetaminophen (fever and pain), and robitussin (cough), among others.  We are all undoubtedly familiar with them.  So how do viruses work?  What are they?  Let us explore some basics to better understand them.

Treating the Influenza Virus

Influenza has plagued man throughout the ages and is only now in the “infancy stages” of being understood, especially in function.  The disease (seasonal) is described as being an acute, contagious, respiratory infection with fever, headache, and cough, originating with a virus (influenza A, in 65% of cases, or influenza B, in 35% of cases). Incubation is usually 1-3 days with the illness running its course in about a week.  Current antiviral medications include amantadine and rimantadine.

Over-the-counter medications are for treatment of symptoms while the body is fighting the infection and recovering.  Such medications are guaifenisin (an expectorant),acetaminophen (fever and pain), and robitussin (cough), among others.  We are all undoubtedly familiar with them.  So how do viruses work?  What are they?  Let us explore some basics to better understand them.

There are more than 400 types of viruses.  A virus is basically a pathogen with a protein coating containing nucleic acids.  They are broken down and classified by several methods pertaining to their physiology:  1.  Genome (RNA or DNA), 2. Host/target (bacteria, plant, or animal), 3. Reproduction mode, 4. Mode of transmission, and 5. Disease/illness effected.

The influenza virus is absorbed by its “victim,” or host (either respiration or ingestion usually), and then it attaches itself to the cell wall of one of the host’s cells.  The virus then injects its viral-DNA into the cell where it synthesizes with cellular DNA and proteins.  Such is its process of reproduction, and its unit is referred to as a phage.  The cell’s own machinery is utilized to reproduce more phages.  The cell becomes “overcrowded” with phages and the cell wall lyses (or ruptures) to release untold numbers of new individual phages to (each) begin the cycle again.

Sometimes the phages form small “buds” that break off and infect another cell.  One of the problems with viruses is that they can have antigens, which are protein markers normally recognizable to our body’s White Blood Cells (WBC’s); the antigens mutate frequently, and this is the problem.  The WBC’s cannot recognize the new, mutated antigen as the problem.  Immunoglobulins are antibodies, and these are confounded by the change/mutation that prevents them from working effectively against the new form of the virus.

Viruses are very small, requiring (in most cases) an electron microscope to be able to detect them.  The field of comparison could be likened in this manner: a bacterial cell can be likened to the size of a bus, and a virus would be likened to a marble on that bus.  Provided please find a list of definitions that will help you that you can refer to in the subsequent article:

Virulence – the relative power and degree of pathogenicity possessed by organisms.

Retroviruses – (Retroviridae); these viruses contain reverse transcriptase, an enzyme essential for reverse transcription, i.e., production of a DNA molecule from an RNA model.

Neuraminidase – an enzyme present on the surface of influenza virus particles; enables the virus to separate from the cell.

Cytokine – One of more than 100 distinct proteins produced by WBC’s.  Provide signals to stimulate specific immune response during inflammation/infection.

Incubation – The interval between exposure to infection and the appearance of the first symptom.

You may be wondering a few things, but mainly, why all this?  You needed a few basics and some notes to help you with your understanding of the mechanics of the virus and how it affects you.  In order to provide clear-cut, factual information without continually explaining terms, these basics have been provided.  “What about naturopathic cures for seasonal influenza?” may be your next question?  You already have heard of standard herbal and natural foods to help with influenza (seasonal), such as Echinacea or Elderberry.  Such foods as these, in the case of the Ebola virus, or even the (almost forgotten) H5N1 (Bird flu virus)…these herbs will be detrimental to you.

In the case of the “standard” seasonal flu, however, Echinacea and Elderberry are just fine. Echinacea refers to the Purple Coneflower, primarily (Echinacea purpurea), and this is available in many different forms (capsule, liquid, and other forms).  Daily dosage is 900 mg of drug for a maximum duration of 8 weeks.

Echinacea refers to the Purple Coneflower, primarily (Echinacea purpurea), and this is available in many different forms (capsule, liquid, and other forms).  Daily dosage is 900 mg of drug for a maximum duration of 8 weeks.

 Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) can shorten the duration and severity of the flu.  The daily dosage is 10 – 15 grams.  With it and with Echinacea, check the label to see the proper dosage, as each can be found in varying strengths and concentrations as per the manufacturer.

Please keep in mind that all of the aforementioned naturopathic aids are supportive in nature and are an adjunct, not a substitute for a doctor’s care.  Consult with your friendly and happy family physician prior to taking any actions regarding any information provided in this article.  Be well.

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