Natural ways to dealing with cold
Winter is coming and the colds are already here – runny nose, cough, fever, ear infections, sore throat and more. Some of us are considering the flu shots (see a different post about that), but even if we did decide to get the shots we could still get sick. So what do we do? How do we deal with the colds?
Tylenol (the equivalent to Israeli Acamol) is being recalled, the safety of some medications are doubted, cough medications are not recommended for use under the age of 6 and we feel confused and helpless when trying to help ourselves and especially our little ones in dealing with cold symptoms.
This article suggests some natural and effective recommendations; most of them are used for centuries to prevent colds and to deal with them once they caught us.
** If you or your child are allergic to one or more of the ingredients recommended below avoid using them.
A couple of words about cold and cough medicines: Most cough drops contain codeine and ephedrine. Codeine is an opiate that can also be synthesized from morphine, an addictive drug. Ephedrine is similar in structure to the synthetic derivatives amphetamine, which is known to have psychoactive influence over the brain, cause hallucinations and addiction. In 2006 it was ruled that dietary supplements contain ephedrine are illegal for marketing, but it is still legal for other uses, including cough medications.
In 2007 the FDA has strongly recommended that cold and cough medicines should not be used in children younger than 2 years old, and the FDA is now considering extending the warning to kids 6 and under. Over the counter medicines for nasal decongestant, cough and cold have not been found to be safe or effective in children under 6 years old.
Different research has shown that cough and cold medicines are no more effective than placebo in kids and adults, yet overdosing and continuous use may cause severe reactions including death.
Natural ways to prevent colds and strengthen our immune system:
Physical activity: Different research has proved that daily exercise (at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week) helps us maintain health and strengthens our immune system. Find any activity you like and can stick with, and help your children be physically active from a young age, whether it is walking, running, gym, Judo, ballet, basketball, baseball, swimming or dancing together in the living room. A good way to engage a child who doesn't like sports in physical activities is by giving a good example and making it a family activity.
Reducing stress and emotional support: When people are stressed messages are sent from the brain to the adrenal glands. The glands produce stress hormones which weaken and repress the immune system and expose our body to disease. Therefore reducing pressure in your life may be a valuable way to help you maintain good health. Learn how to manage stress, try to avoid unnecessary confrontations, express your feelings and find effective ways to decrease stress in your life. Be aware of stress symptoms, trauma or anxiety and seek professional help when you feel overwhelmed and not being able to deal with the situation by yourself. Use meditation techniques, guided imagery, breathing, Reiki or anything else that works for you.
Nutrition: Balanced nutrition is a crucial factor in preventive medicine. With a healthy diet there is no need to use dietary supplements, which may contain unhealthy components or can be overused or misused. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes (batata), carrots, pumpkins, spinach, eggplant, sweet pepper, cucumber, lettuce, onion, garlic, apricot, oranges, apples, and more. Try to avoid white sugar and white wheat, use whole wheat, oat, whole rice, buckwheat and quinoa instead. Replace soft drinks with water, natural juices or herbal teas.
Alternative medicine: There are many different alternative methods that can be used for both preventive medicine and for healing. IPEC is a therapeutic method focuses on strengthening the body's immunity, releases emotional inhibitions and teaches stress management. Other methods that may help are Chinese medicine, Homeopathy, nutrition, healing, Bach flower remedies and more.
Hygiene: Make sure you and your children wash your hands when you get home and before you sit down to eat. The hand sanitizers are nice on the go, but when you can, use soap and water. (A word about hand sanitizers – to be effective the sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol, and some products actually contain less, so you should read the label when you buy one. The other problem with the high concentration of alcohol is if accidentally consumed by kids or infants it can be very dangerous and even deadly).
Another important step for preventing colds is ventilation – open the windows, yes even in Minnesota when it gets really cold. Germs and microbes tend to prosper in warm closed places, a few minutes of fresh air may help you stay healthier and prevent the entire family from catching a cold when one of them is getting sick. Healthy lifestyle: Remember that healthy life doesn't begin and end in winter time; you should adopt healthy habits as inseparable part of your and your child's life: love, laugh a lot, spend time with your family and friends, reduce stress, find support, whether it is a partner, a friend or someone professional, eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise, walk in nature and don't forget to breathe deeply.
Treating cold naturally
Cold cannot be treated through medications. It is a viral disease and as such there are actually no medications to heal it, but only to relief its symptoms. There is a saying that the flu will pass within a week if not treated or in 7 days with medications…
When we are sick the body produces useful signals – symptoms, which are crucial for healing. Some are part of the recovery process like fever, cough, runny nose, and others prevent us from causing more damage like pain and fatigue which tell us to get some rest. When cold, the only impact medications have is suppressing symptoms, the same ones which are necessary for the body's recovery.
Don't forget that most symptoms are indications that the body is fighting. Lowering body temperature through medications is usually unnecessary and even harmful. Temperature around 100°-102°F (38°-39°c) is still normal, and usually it will independently decrease in 3-4 days; When having higher temperature or fever that prolongs more than 3-4 days it is advised to consult a physician, to eliminate options of infections or a more serious disease.
In most cases the body will be able to heal itself completely in a few days up to one week. If symptoms are so unbearable try to look for natural ways to relief symptoms and pain, and in more severe cases consider using medications. A feasible possibility (although rare) is that due to the weakened immune system bacteria and germs may attack the body and cause more severe illness. In this case other treatment should be used. There is also a risk that a dangerous virus had attacked the body, and may cause an escalation or severe symptoms that should be under medical supervision. If symptoms don't disappear after a week, or there is still an escalation after 3-4 days it is recommended to see a physician to eliminate the possibility of a different disease.
When you or your child are sick, usually the best cure is rest and love. Sometimes children as well as adults become ill to get attention (usually subconsciously so they are not aware of it or “doing it on purpose”); instead of filling them with medications or being mad at them for wanting some attention, give them the love they seek and deserve. And make sure you get the same for yourself when you are sick.
When we catch a cold it means that our immune system was weak enough to let viruses attack our body. The best way to heal from cold or flu is to rest, sleep enough and help the system recover.
There are also alternative treatments that can be used to strengthen the body and relieve symptoms:
** Always remember that everything you use, including food and aromatherapy shouldn't be over consumed – even too much water can be fatal.
Food: It is advised to avoid products that increase mucous such as: dairy products, white sugar, white wheat, strawberries, bananas and eggs.
Foods that may help in dealing with cold and flu symptoms are: granola, oat, onion, kohlrabi, pumpkin, garlic, green leaves, radish, honey, persimmon, apricot, and papaya.
Drinks: Drinking plenty of water (in room temperature) is always important, but especially when having a cold. It helps cleaning the body, dealing with fluids lost due to sweating and runny nose, lowering body temperature and strengthening the body.
Warm tea may also be useful in helping the body recover. You can use green tea which contains antioxidants that help protect our body from harmful microorganisms. Remember that green tea contains caffeine (although less than black tea), thus should be consumed carefully especially by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and infants.
There are also non-caffeine teas that may be helpful when dealing with cold including: Rooibos, Salvia, Ocimum Tenuifolium (known as Holy basil) Cinnamon, Luisa, Lemon Grass, Verbena, Nettle and Roses. You can also find special tea blends for different uses including cough, cold symptoms, strengthening the immune system and more.
Aromatherapy: Lavender helps relieve the symptoms of cold in babies. It can be used either in a burner inside the room before the child is asleep (don’t forget to take it out of the room when a sleep), or by putting a few drops in the child’s bath.
For coughing and breathing difficulties: Rub this mixture on chest and upper back: 1 ounce of almonds oil with 3 drops of lavender and 2 drops of lemon. For infants and toddlers you can rub this on the sole of the foot instead of the chest. For adults only it is possible to add to the mixture 2 drops of eucalyptus and 1 drop of mint.
Use only aromatherapy oils, which are suited for this use.
Humidity: The air gets really dry in winter time. It is important to keep the room humid especially in cold countries, and cold humidifiers are important all winter long. When sick you can use warm humidifiers for a few hours (I would not recommend going to sleep with a warm humidifier), it helps when congested and breathing heavily. You can also add a few drops of lavender, mint or eucalyptus into the water. Don’t use too much and make sure the scent is not get too strong.
Homemade remedies: Honey – honey has been used for centuries in various medicinal traditions to treat ailments. When you use honey make sure you are using a high quality one, which was not heated, barreled or strained. High quality honey has a beige color and is not liquid but rather solid.
WARNING!!!!! NEVER USE HONEY OR ANY OF ITS PRODUCTS WITH INFANTS UNDER 1 YEAR OLD. HONEY CONTAINS BACTERIA THAT MAY BE LETHAL FOR LITTLE INFANTS!
Honey and cinnamon – 1 tbsp honey and ¼ tbsp cinnamon once a day help in dealing with cold as well as preventing it. It is also great for coughing.
Honey and onion – not very tasty and doesn’t smell great, but can do miracles when coughing – cut an onion into small cubes, add 2 tbsp of honey to cover the onion. Let stand for about an hour, strain and take a small spoon every hour.
Salt – Most nasal spray may contain active ingredients that can be very addicting and may have side effects. The safest medicine you can use is salty water. You can also buy that in stores but make sure there is no other active ingredient other than salt and water. Or you can make it at home – put 1 tea spoon of salt in 4 glasses of hot water, let it cool and drip into nose several times a day.
Olive oil – Warm cold press extra virgin olive oil – make sure it is warm but not too hot!!! – put 2-3 drops into ear. With little kids you can dip a cotton ball in the warm oil and squeeze a few drops into ear.
Most important, rest, drink a lot of water and let your body do its work. Your immune system can easily deal with cold or flu if you only let it.