Sometimes, even when you do all the right things you still can get sick. Here’s what to do if the virus catches you.
1. Recognize Symptoms and Take Immediate Action.
Cold symptoms (nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing) occur within 1 to 2 days after exposure to the virus, peak in 2-4 days, and may persist for up to 2 weeks.
Influenza symptoms occur about 1-4 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms start out like a cold then rapidly include chills, fever, extreme tiredness, cough, body aches and pains, headache, increased sensitivity to light, coughing, sore throat, and general malaise.
Children may also experience nausea and vomiting.
Most symptoms subside within 2-3 days and the illness resolves within 3-7 days if no complications occur. Sometimes milder symptoms can persist for up to 2-weeks.
If you notice the symptoms of influenza, take immediate action.
2. NURTURE Yourself.
First; don’t try to go to work or school. When you’re sick, people don’t want you there anyhow.
Get out the blankets. Make yourself as comfortable as you possibly can. Rest and remove yourself from responsibilities so you can focus on nurturing YOU. Support your natural healing.
3. Eat Immune-Boosting Foods and Keep Well Hydrated with Purified Water.
Onions and Garlic
Dr. Weil says, “The best home remedy for colds is to eat two cloves of raw garlic at the onset of symptoms.” Crush or chop the garlic to release its allicin (a potent immune-booster). You can use it in hummus, or on a sandwich.
Research now supports your mom’s wisdom. Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center confirm that chicken soup helps relieve symptoms.
According to James A, Duke, PhD, retired chief of the Medicinal Plants Laboratory, researchers found chicken soup reduced activity of neutrophils, the most common white blood cell that defends against infection. They suspect that lower neutrophils activity reduces the inflammation that causes many of the virus’s symptoms. It’s believed the combination of vegetables, chicken, and broth does the trick.
Dr. Duke recommends adding lots of garlic, ginger, and hot pepper too. He recommends these ingredients to help reduce fevers:
Sweet bell peppers
Elderberries contain more that a dozen antiviral compounds and flavonoids that stimulate the immune system. Dr. Duke reports researchers found that 93 percent of flu patients given Sambucol (elderberry extract) were completely free of symptoms within 2 days.
The World Health Organization has cited honey as a potential remedy for colds. Honey soothes and coats the throat while having antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine compared treatments of children with upper respiratory infections and nighttime coughs. They found buckwheat honey (a dark honey packed with natural antioxidants) rated as most effective when compared to over-the-counter honey-favored cough suppressants and no treatment.
Don’t give honey to children less than 1 year old as it may cause infantile botulism.
4. Try These Immune-Boosting Remedies.
Sip on a nice cup of warm tea with natural buckwheat honey. Tea contains compounds that help break up congestion and keep viruses from multiplying while the honey is rich in antioxidants.
A 2007 review of 14 studies by researchers at the University of Connecticut found that taking echinacea reduces the chances of getting a cold by 58 percent. It also shortened the duration of colds.
Dr. Andrew Weil recommends taking it at the first sign of a cold or flu.
This herb, long used in traditional Chinese medicine, improves immunity and treats viral infections by decreasing inflammation and improving lung function.
A 2007 Alternative Medicine Review article noted, “Research suggests that olive leaf constituents interact with the protein of virus particles and reduce the infectivity and inhibit replication of viruses.”
Anecdotal reports indicate that olive leaf extract taken at the beginning of symptoms prevents or shortens its duration.
Eucalyptus and Sage
Both of these botanicals act as an excellent remedy for coughs, chest congestion, and sinus infections. Dr. Weil recommends inhaling the steam made from placing eucalyptus and sage in boiling water at least 2xs a day.
Goldenseal, a natural antiseptic, speeds healing of sore throats. Gargle warm water with a goldenseal and salt mixture for a few minutes, at least four times a day.
Gargling plain salt water helps too.
Ginger fights rhinoviruses, the most common cold virus. It also contains substances that help coughs and reduce pain and fever. Shred a couple of tablespoons of ginger root into a teacup with boiling water for a soothing and healing drink.
This powerful antioxidant reduces the duration and severity of colds. Dr. Duke reports on a review of 21 studies with participants using 1,000 to 8,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day. They found a reduction of cold symptoms by 23 percent on average.
Reishi, like maitake and other related mushroom species improves immune function, has anti-inflammatory effect, reduces allergic response, and protects the liver, reports Andrew Weil, MD, in Eight Weeks to Optimal Health.
Known for its role in promoting longevity, reishi is considered one of the most important tonics in the traditional medicine of China and Japan. For a fascinating personal review of mushrooms including recipes visit Mushroom–Appreciation.com.
5. Respect Your Natural Healing System.
A low-grade fever helps healing.
Technically, a fever is a body temperature above the normal oral measurement of 98.6 F (37 C) or rectal temperature of 99 F (37.2 C). However, since these numbers are averages, your normal temperature may vary by a degree above or below these temperatures.
Fever is one of your body’s natural defenses against invading bacteria and viruses that cannot live at a higher temperature. In addition, the body’s defense mechanisms seem to work more efficiently at higher temperatures. It’s best not to treat low fevers.
Higher fevers may indicate complications. Check with a health care practitioner if your fever goes over 103° F or if it lasts for more than 3 days. For babies and young children a slightly elevated fever is a more serious sign and needs a call to your health practitioner.
Do not give aspirin or salicylate containing products to children due to their link to Reye’s syndrome. Use caution with Tylenol (acetaminophen) as well. Reye’s syndrome is a potentially fatal disease with damaging effects to the brain and liver.
Try tepid sponge baths to reduce fevers as an alternative to aspirin.
Be aware that the degree of fever is just an indicator and may not represent the seriousness of an illness. For example, people who have a chronic illness with fatigued immune systems can be very ill and have a slight or no fever.
Avoid over the counter drugs as they can end up worsening the condition.
Nasal decongestants can excessively dry out mucus membranes leading to an increased risk of secondary infection. You can also get a rebound affect of worsened symptoms due to mucosal dependence on the drug.
Read their labels closely. Most are contraindicated for people with chronic diseases. They can increase blood pressure and cause difficulty in passing urine.
6. Know When to Seek Emergency Medical Care.
Serious complications can happen with the flu. The most serious complications are meningitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain) and pneumonia (collection of fluid in the lungs).
Seek emergency care for any of the following symptoms:
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Loss of consciousness or difficulty arousing someone
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Severe headache and neck stiffness
- High fevers or persistent vomiting and diarrhea with babies and small children
7. Keep informed of national recommendations on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/flu.
Getting caught by the flu means you must take care of YOU.
So cozy up; enjoy immune-boosting foods, fluids, and remedies that are right for you. Support your natural healing system. Beat down those nasty viruses. Beat down the flu!
Andrew Weil, 8 Weeks to Optimal Health (New York: Ballantine Books, 2007).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Seasonal Influenza (flu),” accessed 10/30/09 at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
James A. Duke, The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodalestore.com: Rodale, 2008).
Mario Roxas and Julie Jurenka, “Colds and Influenza: A Review of Diagnosis and Conventional, Botanical, and Nutritional Consideration,” Alternative Medicine Review12, no. 1, (2007).