Top Ten “Must Haves” for Fighting Colds and Flu
“Always be prepared” is a motto that has worked for the Boy Scouts for decades. It seems like a reasonable plan given there are still a few months of cold and flu season left. Caring for your family using natural remedies can be challenging enough, let alone at 10 pm on a Sunday night when anything resembling a natural health market is closed and your only option is a walk-in clinic dispensing the dreaded antibiotics. Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a fully stocked natural toolkit to use at the very first sign of a sniffle?
Here is a list of “must haves” for the season.
- Wool socks. If you have never heard of “Magic Socks” now is the time to try it. Magic socks are extremely effective at drawing congestion from the head, helping to move through fevers, and shortening illness. Follow these simple steps. 1. Warm your feet or body to avoid being chilled with a warm shower, bath, or cup of tea. 2. Place a pair of thin cotton socks in a bowl of ice-cold water or get socks wet and place in refrigerator/freezer until ready to use. 3. Squeeze as much excess water out of the cotton socks as possible so they are just damp, not wet. Apply damp, cold cotton socks on your warm feet and immediately place dry wool socks over the top. 4. Relax and go to sleep to wake to warm, dry socks. You can repeat this for several nights until the condition improves.
- Ferrum Phosphoricum and Belladonna. These two powerful homeopathic remedies are indispensible for helping with fevers. Yes, helping, not stopping. Fevers are an essential part of the body’s natural immune response to create an inhospitable environment for a bug. If a fever is very high, generally over 102, the face is red and hot to the touch, chose Belladonna. For a lower fever, more paleness in the face, use Ferrum Phosphoricum. You dissolve 3 pellets at a time under the tongue and look for improvements in the condition. For children or for any fever over 102 that lasts 24 hours, consult a naturopathic doctor.
- Elderberry Syrup. This safe and tasty syrup can be used by most age groups at the earliest onset of a cold or flu earning it a place on the must have list. It can be used throughout the season to boost the immune system. Research has also shown that it can shorten the length of an illness. Always consult a professional for proper dosing instructions.
- Horseradish??? Yes, you read correctly. Horseradish combined with garlic, onion, and apple cider vinegar in equal parts blended into a paste is one of the best cold/flu remedies you will find in your tool-kit. It can be mixed and stored in a glass jar to be eaten on a cracker or with celery sticks or just eaten by the spoonful to kill lingering bugs. Cayenne, lemon, ginger, and turmeric can be added for taste. Don’t worry, if you are under the weather you shouldn’t be breathing on anyone anyway!
- Eucalyptus Essential Oil. When added to a carrier oil such as coconut oil, this can work as a wonderful chest rub or rubbed on the bottoms of the feet covered with a pair of socks. Commercial chest rubs are often petroleum-based products. This is a great chemical free alternative. It can also be added to hot water for a steam inhalation, however, use it sparingly. Eucalyptus is a strong oil. Start with 1 or 2 drops to tolerance.
- Vitamin D. A recent meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal confirms the naturopathic recommendation to keep Vit. D levels up during the season. Vitamin D protects against upper respiratory infections including influenza. Schedule an appointment to have your levels checked if you haven’t done so already. While the normal range may start at 30, an optimal range is between 50-70.
- Vitamin C. Most people have heard that Vitamin C is good to take to fight off illness. It is also friendly to most age groups due to the availability of several preparations; capsule, chewable, powder, liquid. Avoiding forms with added fructose is important where possible. Proper dosing is based upon an individuals’ bowel tolerance. If you experience any discomfort or abnormal bowels, lower the dose just enough to restore normal bowel function.
- Manuka Honey. Honey has long been used in traditional medicine for healing wounds and disease. Manuka honey, specifically from the flower of the Manuka tree, has been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Honey is particularly useful for coughs. Taken by the teaspoon or mixed into a ginger tea, this makes an excellent cough tonic.
- A Bulb Syringe. No one loves to irrigate their sinuses, but rinsing with 8 ounces of water, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda can help to rinse out irritants to the mucosa, kill bacteria and soothe congestion. This can both prevent illness during the winter once that dry heat has been turned on as well as help to treat a cold right from the onset. A Neti pot can also be used if preferred.
- Probiotics. Many of you may know that probiotics are important for your gastrointestinal health. BUT, did you know that they will prevent and shorten colds and flus? An estimated 60-70% of your immune system is located in lymphatic tissue called GALT or Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue. Preliminary research indicates that probiotics prevent upper respiratory tract infections and now you know why!
One final note: the #1 thing to NOT have in the house during cold and flu season is SUGAR. Sugar is known to suppress immune system function up to several hours after consumption. So think twice before consuming those extra holiday sweets! While this list may not be all-inclusive, it is a great start for items to have handy in the house BEFORE you get sick in order to start treating yourself and your family at the first sign of illness.
When in doubt, always contact a naturopathic doctor. Establishing care with a well visit so when those symptoms start to sneak up on you, you already have a trusted physician you can call to guide you through the best remedies. And if you already have a few items at home, you can start right away.
Dr. Firisin is a licensed naturopathic doctor and the medical director at Coastal Natural Medicine in Southport, CT. She brings over 20 years of experience in healthcare to her practice with a focus on family medicine, gastrointestinal conditions, cardiovascular health, autoimmune and thyroid disorders and detoxification. Please call 475-999-2032 or visit: www.coastalnaturalmedicine.com to learn more.