First of all: Is it a Cold or the Flu? Click here to find out (lists symptoms for each)
The following requires a visit to your ER:
A "cold" of unusual severity, marked by lethargy and the feeling of being too exhausted to get out of bed
A fever that suddenly spikes 102F or higher and persists for more than two days
Chest pain, difficulty breathing and coughing that expels thick phlegm
Poor appetite in infants and toddlers
Call Your Doctor
You usually do not have to call your doctor right away if you have signs of a cold or flu. But you should call your doctor in these situations:
Your symptoms get worse.
Your symptoms last a long time.
After feeling a little better, you show signs of a more serious problem. Some of these signs are a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking, chills, chest pain, or coughing with thick, yellow-green mucus.
The most uncomplicated colds last eight to nine days. About 25% last two weeks; and 5-10% last three weeks.
Natural Remedies for the Common Cold:
The most important things you can do to get yourself well again are the following:
Rest. Getting plenty of rest and healing sleep will boost your immune function and give the body time to heal. It is during the deeper stages of sleep that you experience metabolic and tissue restoration. If you can't sleep, visit this website for some "holistic" tips.
Stay Hydrated: Drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water each day. Water keeps your respiratory system hydrated, which helps to liquefy thick mucus that builds up with a respiratory infection.
Some findings show that hot liquids may be superior to cold liquids in upper respiratory infections. Other liquids such as clear soups, broth or an electrolyte replacement drink also work. Avoid coffee, caffeinated teas, or alcoholic beverages as these liquids may cause dehydration.
Note: Antibiotics are not effective against cold and flu germs. You should take antibiotics only when really needed as determined by your physician, or consider teh below as a natural alternative ....
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2): Dr. Mercola suggests an unusual, yet effective, trick to beat upper respiratory infections - and that is hydrogen peroxide. He states that many patients have had amazing results curing colds and flu within 12 - 14 hours by administering a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide into each ear. According to him, one should expect to hear some bubbling and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation. He instructs to wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (typically within 5 to 10 minutes), then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear.
Vitamin C: Thomas E. Levy, M.D., J.D. - a practicing physician for 25 years, a board-certified internist and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, http://www.tomlevymd.com - states as follows: " I never cease to be amazed at the number of persons who remain unaware that vitamin C is the best broad-spectrum antibiotic, antihistamine, antitoxic and antiviral substance there is."
Click here for information on Vitamin C and its application in the treatment of infectious diseases
Dr. Cathleen London, MD, Brookline, MA, suggests: homemade chicken soup with a whole head of unpeeled garlic (sliced half crosswise) and two to four quartered, unpeeled onions to the broth before cooking.
An antiviral compound in the skin of garlic and onions fights the rhinovirus that's causing the cold, she explained. Skins can be strained out before eating since the broth will have been infused with quercetin.
Another perk: chicken sop blocks the activity of netrophils, inflammatory cells that trigger coughs and congestion.
For Congestion & Sore Throats:
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D, author of "From Fatigued to Fantastic" (the best selling guide to treating chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia) suggests the following:
Gargle a solution of 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and 1 cup of luke-warm water. The mix also works as a nasal rinse to clear stuffiness.
According to Dr. Teitelbaum, each rinsing washes away 90% of germs causing the infection. To treat nasal passages, pour a bit of saltwater into your palm, block one nostril with the other hand and gently sniff the liquid into the open nostril. Repeat on the opposite side.
For Sneezing & Watery Eyes:
Holly Lucille, ND, Los Angeles (author of "Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman's Guide to Safe Natural Hormone Health") recommends a daily dose of Echinacea to shorten a cold by up to four days.
But not any Echinacea will do. She recommends looking for a product containing the active species "purpurea" and ""pallida". She likes the brand "Esberitox" (eVitamins).
Home Remedies for Calming an Irritated Throat:
Teaspoon of Honey Ginger & Malt Sugar Drink: Crush enough fresh ginger to obtain half a tablespoon of juice. Mix the juice and a teaspoon of malt or brown sugar in a cup of warm water and drink. Do this 2-3 times a day.
Ginger stimulates nerves that lead to mucus production. Ginger appears to have an antioxidant effect, as well as an anti-inflammatory effect, and stimulates the production of interferon that helps fight viral infections. *Note: Ginger can decrease blood clotting and should not be taken by people with bleeding disorders.
Whole Lemon Drink: Cut up a fresh lemon and put it through a juice extractor (including skin and seeds). Mix the juice with an equal amount of warm water and sip slowly, letting it just trickle down your throat. If it's too bitter add a little more water, but no sugar. Do this 2-3 times a day.
Honey & Egg Drink: Crack an egg into a bowl and beat it evenly. Add 35 grams of honey to a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Add the honey water to the egg bowl, mix well and drink warm. Do this 1-2 times a day. Good for dry cough and hoarse voice.
Avoid phlegm-forming foods such as dairy products (especially if you have a damp, phlegmy cough), refined starches like white bread and cakes and overly cooked meats. Eat foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
To Ease Congestion or to Stave Off the Sniffles:
Saline (Salt Water) Nasal Sprays: Saline nasal sprays can be purchased over the counter at any drug or grocery store and are effective, safe and nonirritating, even for children. Spray the saline solution into one nostril and then gently blow the mucus and saline out of that nostril. Repeat the process in the opposite nostril until both are running clear.
Chili peppers are a great source of capsaicin, an antioxidant that also acts as a natural decongestant and expectorant. If you don't mind the spiciness, try adding a few chili peppers to season your foods or use a few drops of hot sauce in a food or beverage. This will help to open your nasal passages and temporarily improve breathing.
Horseradish contains a chemical similar to one found in decongestants.
Oregano: The European herb Oregano is one of the most nutritious substances on earth, with 42 times more antioxidants than apples and 30 times more than potatoes. Additionally, it's loaded with antimicrobial compounds that fight cold-causing bacteria and researchers found that it staves off the sniffles and can destroy giardia. To reap the benefits, sprinkle on your food each day or follow package directions.
Healing Steam: Fill the bathroom or kitchen sink with steaming water, and add two teaspoons chopped fresh ginger (Zingiber officinalis). Drape a towel over your head and lean over the steam to get maximum benefit. Another flu remedy is to add a few drops of oil of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) or menthol to the water. Eucalyptus is known to open up bronchial tubes, ease congestion, and make breathing easier. Getting in a warm shower with the bathroom door closed works as your own personal sauna. The steamy bathroom helps to open your airways and moisten and thin the mucus in your sinuses.
Avianweb Notes: "Eucalyptus Essential Oil" is toxic to birds, as well as being non-edible and poisonous to humans. Only use as directed. *Ginger can decrease blood clotting and should not be taken by people with bleeding disorders.
Moist Heat Compresses: If you find it difficult to breathe through your nose, you may find relief by applying warm moist compresses to the cheeks and sinuses. If you use moist heat, make sure it's not too hot to avoid skin injury.
If the air in your room is too dry, use a warm mist humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air and help ease nasal and chest congestion. Make sure to clean the humidifier with a bleach solution every few days to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.
Saline nasal irrigation is an effective flu remedy to thin mucus, decrease postnasal drip, and add moisture to dried mucous membranes. In addition, the saline nasal rinse helps to remove virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here's a popular recipe that you can try at home:
Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda (such as Bob's Red Mill Baking Soda) in 8 ounces of warm water.
Use a bulb syringe to squirt water into the nose.
Learning over the bathroom sink, hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain and gently blow your nose.
Repeat 2-3 times and then treat the other nostril.
Two studies published in the 1990's in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise surprisingly showed results in favor of exercising when suffering from a cold.
The investigators found no difference in symptoms between those who exercised and those who rested; and there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the colds. But when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, people said they felt fine and, in some cases, they actually felt better.
Now, Dr. Leonard Kaminsky, an exercise physiologist at Ball State University, and others at Ball State encourage people to exercise when they have colds, at least if they have the type producing symptoms like runny noses and sneezing. He is more cautious about other types of colds that produce fevers or symptoms below the neck such as chest congestion.
Sources: The New York Times December 24, 2008; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise May 1997; 29(5):604-9; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise November 1998; 30(11):1578-83
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