Six Simple Tips For Dealing With Colds & Flu

by Rick DeTroye, LAc, MAcOM

Six Simple Tips For Dealing With Colds & Flu,

Looking out my window,  I can see that the skies are blue, the sun is shining and temperatures are in the mid-50's.  Not bad for late January in Portland. On a gorgeous day like today, it's difficult to imagine that we're in the middle of a nasty Winter cold and flu season.  That is, unless you're in the midst of a nasty Winter cold or flu!  I'm currently at the tail end (I hope) of a tenacious cold that couldn't decide if it wanted to go down to my lungs or up to my head.  In the process of getting sick and trying to hold the nasty bug at bay, I was reminded of some very simple things we can all do to ward off colds and flu, or at least minimize their effects...

Six Simple Tips For Dealing With Colds & Flu

  • Wash your hands and face regularly with soap & warm water. Yes, I know, we've all heard it before, but we still forget this very simple way of avoiding illness. Colds and flu enter the body through the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth & eyes. The main method of transmittal is by our own hands which have come in contact with a virus from surfaces like table tops, door handles and other people's hands. Washing your hands hourly and your face 2-3 times a day can greatly reduce your chance of transmitting the virus to these vulnerable membranes. It can also help prevent passing your own cold or flu on to other people, something I'm sure they'll appreciate!

  • Begin treating the cold or flu at the very first sign of symptoms.  Once the bug gains a foothold, you're probably in for the long haul.  Better to start treating it with the first sign of a scratchy throat, muzzy head, headache, body ache and/or chill.  Take your herbs & vitamins, drink herbal tea, eat garlic, drink hot lemon & honey water, rest, increase your fluid intake - do whatever works well for you, but do it early and do it often throughout the day.  Sometimes you can beat the bug with this approach and sometimes not.  At the very least, you'll get a head start on it and, hopefully, minimize its damage.

  • For sore throats, gargle with warm salt water.  My wife swears by this one.  At least three times a day or more if you can swing it.  The saltiness will help draw out the swelling and soothe the inflamed membranes in the throat.  It may also clear out a virus that's still lingering in there, but hasn't taken hold yet.

  • At the first sign of chest symptoms, try using a chest rub.  I swear by this one.  My colds & flu tend to begin with a sore throat, hang out there a few days, and then move up to my head or down to my lungs.  I know a bug is headed "south" when I feel scratchiness, tightness and mild congestion begin to set in from the bottom of my throat to the base of my ribcage.  At this point, I pull out my jar of Tiger Balm Ultra (any type of warming balm or salve can be used) and apply it from the top of my shoulders to the base of my ribcage and below my sternum.  I also make sure to apply it to all sides of my throat and neck area.  Keep all these areas covered with an old turtleneck that you're not afraid of ruining.  Doing this will help hold in the warmth.  I especially like applying a chest rub at night before I go to bed.  It's soothing and helps loosen up the phlegm in my throat and chest, as well as the congestion in my nose.  For me, it has an amazing ability to prevent a deep cough from developing.

  • For sinus congestion, irrigate your sinuses with a nasal rinse.  Yes, this sounds gross.  Yes, it takes a little getting used to.  And, yes, it is phenomenally effective.  When we're congested and we blow our noses, we often evacuate only a small portion of what's up there.  The mucous that stays stuck in the upper nasal and sinus passages can cause pressure pain and offers a prime breeding ground for secondary infections (i.e., sinus infections).  By gently irrigating the sinuses with a mild, warm saltwater solution, the sticky mucous is rehydrated and loosens, allowing it to be evacuated more easily.  An easy recipe for the solution: 1/2 teaspoon pure sea salt dissolved in one cup warm filtered or distilled water; irrigate one nostril with half the solution and the other nostril with the remainder.  You can use a neti pot or an irrigating bulb for the procedure.  Do the irrigation at least twice per day.

  • Rest.  This is the single best thing you can do for yourself when you're sick with a cold or the flu.  For many of us, however, it's either too difficult to find the time to rest or we simply can't give ourselves permission to rest, so we don't do it at all.  It is, however, vitally important to rest when you're sick as it allows your immune system to do its job unhindered by the usual stress in our lives.  So, resting doesn't mean staying home from work and busying yourself with home and work tasks.  It means RESTING, SLEEPING and DE-STRESSING.  Allow yourself to take a break, slow down, be sick and support your immune system in any way you can.  None of us want to be sick, but being kind to yourself in this way may be just what you need.

We will all catch colds or the flu at one time or another.  Supporting our bodies when we're sick can mean the difference between a rapid recovery or a lingering illness.  Remember that good support while fending off a tough respiratory bug can be found in each of these simple ways.  Treating yourself with kindness and care is always a good approach when you're sick and, after all, you're more than worth it!