Monday, February 16, 2015

A scratchy throat, sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion - these are the symptoms of the common cold. The common cold is a contagious, self-limiting infection commonly caused by the Rhinovirus. Transmission of the virus is through direct contact with an object or surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your nose or mouth. Another method of transmission is through inhaling droplets or secretions in the air around an infected person who has just sneezed.

Contrary to popular belief, a person does not catch a cold by getting wet or chilled. Low humidity enhances the growth of the virus and therefore, more cases of colds are reported during colder months. Another factor is that during colder climates, the lining around our nose gets too dry which makes it easier for the virus to penetrate. Excessive fatigue, emotional distress, allergies are also factors that affect the body's ability to effectively fight off the virus.

There are many over the counter remedies, however, since the common cold is a virus infection and is self-limiting, it is the symptoms that we seek relief from. It is difficult to deal with our daily work and household responsibilities if we are suffering from a runny nose. In addition to that, we feel exhausted because our body is directing all its energy towards fighting off the infection.

What are some home remedies that we can use to alleviate the symptoms and recover quickly? Here are some suggestions you may want to consider:

1. Echinacea

Echinacea is an herbal supplement that is believed to boost the immune system. It does not prevent a cold, but it reduces the duration of the infection by a few days. The Native Americans used Echinacea for a variety of healing purposes for hundreds of years.

2. Zinc

The mineral Zinc is beneficial in helping our bodies combat infections like the common cold. Zinc is believed to prevent the formation of certain proteins that viruses use to reproduce. With this action, the severity and duration of the common cold is reduced. There are many preparations of zinc available, usually in combination with other minerals, in syrup or film tabs. I would prefer zinc lozenges at the first sign of a scratchy throat.

3. Chicken Soup

Chicken soup has always been given to someone with a nasty cold. It has been a tradition for hundreds of years, although there has no definite reason why chicken soup helps to relieve a person of the cold symptoms. Some believe that drinking the hot soup relieves the congestion and reduces inflammation. Others believe the effect is psychosomatic ("its all in the mind"). Regardless of the reason, sipping a bowl of hot, delicious soup keeps us hydrated and it really does warm the heart.

4. Hot Tea

Just like chicken soup, sipping hot tea relieves congestion. There are many different teas in the market - green, white, black, oolong, pu-erh, all of which contain anti-oxidant properties. A cup of hot tea therefore gives us antioxidants, relieves congestion and keeps us hydrated. A most welcome beverage to have whether we have a cold or not.

5. Humidifiers

As I have mentioned earlier, studies show that viruses can easily penetrate the mucous membranes of our nose and throat when it is dry. During colder months when the humidity is low, we become prone to catching a cold. One effective way to keep viruses at bay is to use a humidifier at home. Adding moisture to the air keeps our sinuses open and makes us breathe and sleep better. Some people even love the low whirring sound of a humidifier at night because it has a calming effect.

6. Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been widely known to cure scurvy. It works as an anti-oxidant to help the body tissues grow and promote healing. There are been many studies conducted to explain the efficiency of Vitamin C as a treatment for the common cold, and the results vary. There are many natural sources of Vitamin C - citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, etc. Whether or not Vitamin C helps in the prevention of catching a cold, it is always best to include this in our daily diet for total and complete nutrition.

7. Bed Rest

As with all other ailments, bed rest is recommended to help our bodies heal itself. Plenty of fluids and sleep will enable our natural body processes to rid itself of the invading virus. When a person is sick, his/her body is undergoing a stressful situation. It is therefore recommended to allow our bodies to rest and mobilize vital processes to fight off the infection.

I am currently suffering from a nasty cold. I am about 70% recovered at this time as I write. As much as I would want to stay home until I am 100% well, I have to report back to work tonight. Oh well, I will probably be missing #5 and #7 (the humidifier and bed rest), but I will make sure that I have my supplements, a stash of tea bags, and a can of soup that I can have at work.

Happy Monday, everyone! :)

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