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We all know the feeling; the tickle in the back of the throat, watering eyes, maybe some sneezing, muscle soreness, a little cranky (or maybe that’s just me!)
Many of us do not have the luxury of time to nurture ourselves to recover fully when we are feeling unwell. Too many of us spend the winter months suffering with one seemingly endless cold. With our weakened immune systems, we become susceptible to anything and everything and may find ourselves barely recovering from one cold before we get the next one! It is especially during the colder part of the year when we spend more time inside, usually in a very dry environment, when we come down with a cold. It is no help either that the person in the cubicle next to us seems to make a point to sneeze in our direction!
In the states, flu season has just peaked and everyone and their dog seems to be sneezing. We all know the basic preventative measures we should take to not get sick, right?
Get enough sleep.
Enjoy plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (stress on the word enjoy!)
Drink enough water.
Breathe some fresh air.
Wash your damn hands!
Here are some not-so-fun facts about colds from the Center for Disease Control who recently featured the Common Cold as their Disease of the Week. (Yes. That is a thing.)
- Colds are minor infections of the nose and throat caused by more than 200 different viruses.
- Average length of a cold is one week.
- Adults get an average of two to four colds per year.
- Colds are highly contagious.
- Antibiotics do not help a cold.
- We produce almost 1 ½ quarts of mucus every day! (How’s that for a conversation starter.)
A bad cold comes with a variety of physical symptoms, to which our first reaction is to suppress. However, these symptoms come with a purpose and we don’t want to make it more difficult for our bodies to their job; keep us well.
When we feel feverish, our first thought is to take something to stop the fever, but the reason your body is heating up is to make it inhospitable to viruses. Illness-causing microbes thrive at the body’s normal temperature. When we heat things up, your body creates a much less welcoming environment for those annoying viruses. By suppressing the fever, we make it a lot more difficult for the immune system to employ one of its strongest methods of attack. Often we have a knee-jerk reaction and reach for the ibuprofen; however, long-term use is known to cause liver damage, so we may want to reconsider and not pop these pills like gum drops.
Unless someone is severely health compromised, letting a fever run its course is the best line of action. “Sweating it out” by bundling up, drinking hot tea, and getting some rest are the perfect ways to let our bodies heal.
It’s Snot Funny:
Yes, it’s gross and yes it’s inconvenient, but like a fever, mucus has a biological purpose. Drippy sinuses are yet another aspect of our amazing immune response and have the ultimate effect of clearing out pathogens and inflammatory proteins in the nasal cavity. This flushing of the system also acts to keep damaged, inflamed tissues moist to promote healing.
Many of us reach for over-the-counter decongestants to “plug up” the runny nose. The common over-the–counter decongestant, pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed), has a scary list of side effects including nausea, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite. This may be a last resort for some of us – especially if we have to get through a long workday. However, there are other, more natural solutions, which have similar results but will not stress the liver. These more natural remedies also have the added benefit of not making your head feel like it has been stuffed with wet cotton balls.
Cough cough cough
A wet, phlegmy cough serves a similar immune response as a runny nose – the removing of pathogens from the body. For a wet cough, we can use herbs to help make coughs more productive but also to sooth the tissues of the lungs and throat at the same time.
A dry cough can often linger on long after a cold has concluded. Honey is one of the best natural remedies in helping a cough, and local honey is even better. Honey has the benefit of being natural and dye and artificial flavor free. Interesting to note, in a study done by the Mayo clinic, honey was found to be just as effective (if not more!) than commercial cough suppressants. Remember though – no honey for the little ones. Due to a slight chance of botulism, no one under the age of one should have honey.
Practice Self Care
Below is a list of my favorite things to do when I am nursing a cold (and when I get tired of writhing and moaning in pain to get attention from my family)
Wrap up and drink tons of tea.
Get some sunshine – either sit outside and rest with some skin exposed, or, if it is too nasty out, sit by a sunny window and do the same. Be like a kitty and take a sun bath.
Keep eating well – don’t use having a cold to forget about healthy nutrition. Food is medicine.
Pamper yourself as much as you can. Get others to pamper you as well.
Read something that doesn’t require a lot of thought but is pleasant enough. One of my favs is Nancy Drew.
Watch an old movie with a simple plot or something that doesn’t require a lot of concentration. Movies that involve explosions or long walks through meadows both work, depending upon your preference.
Ask for help – you don’t have to do everything! Seriously.
Keep washing your damn hands! (So you don’t spread germs to others.)
Below is one of my go-to herbal remedies to help bring some relief when I’m suffering with a nasty cold. These herbs create a delicious and soothing tea, and is super easy to make from things most people have in the kitchen or garden. I drink this when I feel like I’m fighting off a bug, or when I am in the midst of a phlegm-induced misery.
Cold Relief Tea
Sage has an affinity for the mouth and throat – plus it’s antiseptic and astringent so it can bring relief to a sore or raw throat. It is also a very drying herb so it helps to alleviate a runny nose and runny/itchy eyes. However, it is not overly drying so you won’t get that awful sinus-plug headache that many suffer when taking hard-core decongestants. Be careful though, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use sage excessively (more than culinary amounts.)
Thyme is great as an antiseptic and especially helpful for upper respiratory infections. For centuries, it has been used in recipes for natural cold care, and is often found in the list of ingredients of natural teas and even the Ricola brand cough drops. Thyme is also helpful to bring relief from coughs caused by a variety of respiratory issues. The herb itself is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-spasmodic, so not only does it contain agents that fight what caused the cold to begin with, but it also helps to soothe coughs while making them more productive.
Many of us are familiar with ginger to bring relief to stomach issues, but it is also a very warming herb that can help when you have a chill – especially the kind that is associated with a fever. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and helps to boost the immune system. It’s also very tasty and a nice way to bring a little kick to the other herbs in this blend.
1 “thumb” of peeled organic ginger
4-5 sage leaves or 1 Tbs dried sage
2-3 sprigs fresh Thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried.
Raw local honey (to taste)
To prepare fresh herbs: peel and chop the ginger into small pieces. Tear 4-5 fresh sage leaves. Roughly chop the thyme sprigs. Place your prepared herbs in a quart Mason jar and pour boiling water over herbs. Cover opening of jar with a dishtowel and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a mug if you like (or just drink out of the jar, like I do!) and sweeten to taste with a little honey. Enjoy several cups throughout the day. If flavor is too strong, cut back a little on the ginger. You can also squeeze an orange into the tea to bring a pleasant citrus note as well as healthful vitamin C.
What are some of your favorite ways to practice self care when you have a cold?