You probably know that practicing good hygiene and bolstering your immune system are the best ways to prevent cold and flu. But sometimes, despite the best-laid plans, you get stuck with a cold or flu bug anyway.
If you’re feeling a little under the weather, here are a few things you should avoid--and what to do instead.
Say No to Over-the-Counter Cold and Flu Remedies
The first thing most people do when they experience early signs of cold or flu is reach for over-the-counter (OTC) “remedies.” But a review of 51 studies of various products revealed they have little to no effect on on cold and flu viruses and symptoms.
Although they might temporarily ease your cold and flu symptoms, they don’t shorten the duration of illness. In fact, some of them can actually lengthen the amount of time you’re sick, because they interfere with your body’s natural immune function.
You should especially avoid OTC products that claim to take care of all symptoms.
If you decide to stick with a conventional product, use one that targets your specific symptoms. Don’t use products loaded with drugs you don’t need.
Antibiotics Are Not Effective on Cold and Flu
Antibiotics are among the most misused and overused drugs on the planet. In years past, up to 60 percent of patients seen by their doctors for a common cold were given a prescription for antibiotics despite the fact that colds are caused by viruses, which antibiotics are powerless to combat.
The same goes for sore throats. Many physicians are quick to prescribe antibiotics, even though only a small percentage of cases are caused by bacteria that can be eradicated by antibiotics.
There is no doubt that, when prescribed appropriately, antibiotics save lives—but resist the urge to pester your doctor for a prescription at the first sign of a cold or flu.
Prescribing an antibiotic “just in case” may make your doctor feel better, but it won’t do the same for you. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad, and gastrointestinal upset and yeast infections are common side effects of these powerful drugs. Worse still, overuse breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so the next time you actually need an antibiotic, it might not work.
When to See a Doctor
The truth is, in many cases of cold and flu, a doctor’s visit isn’t necessary. Symptoms that warrant medical attention include:
- A temperature above 102° F
- Earache or drainage from your ear
- Severe pain in your face or forehead
- Shortness of breath
- A bad cough
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness that won’t go away.
So What Can You Do to Treat a Common Cold or Flu?
There are several natural therapies that have been shown to shorten the duration of colds and flu, and ease their symptoms. Here’s the protocol I recommend to my patients:
- Take 1,000 mg of vitamin C every hour you’re awake (adjusting this dose as needed to reach bowel tolerance).
- Add other immune boosters, such as echinacea (use as directed), 1–3 cloves of garlic per day or one garlic tablet three times a day, and 20 mg of zinc twice a day.
- Be sure to drink copious amounts of water.
- Eat chicken soup. I know it sounds cliché, but chicken soup really does wonders if you get stuck with a cold or the flu.
- To open up a stuffy nose, add a dash of cayenne pepper to each bowl of chicken soup before serving. In a pinch, heat a can of low-sodium chicken broth and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.
- Take time for R&R. To get healthy, you’re going to need plenty of sleep. Sleep rejuvenates your cells and recharges your body, and it’s especially vital for the proper functioning of your immune system. Research has shown that immune function declines when a person is sleep deprived, and an accumulated sleep deficit dramatically lowers the effectiveness of your immune system.
Take good care of yourself, stay away from unnecessary OTC medications and overuse of antibiotics, and turn to natural therapies if sickness prevails.