When you get sick from a cold or the flu, what exactly are you getting sick from?

Well, both are caused by viruses, which are very small living structures that are basically a bunch of genetic material packaged into a coating. Colds may be caused by several viruses, in fact there are over 100 different cold viruses, but the most common is the rhinovirus. The flu is a much more intense illness caused by the flu virus also known as influenza.

Where are they coming from and exactly how am I getting sick?

Colds and flu viruses are spread through coughing and sneezing transported by droplets, and by contaminated hands especially if you contact your eyes and mouth before washing them. These viruses travel to the nasal passages and into the back of the nose, where they begin their infection. Cold symptoms can begin shortly after the virus is first produced in the nose (10-12 hours). The time from the beginning of the infection to the peak of symptoms is typically 36-72 hours.

How do you know if you have a cold or the flu?

The symptoms of a common cold include: runny nose, nasal obstruction, sneezing, sore or scratchy throat, cough, hoarseness, and mild symptoms such as headache, feverishness, chilliness, and in general not feeling well. The flu can cause similar symptoms especially if milder but typically it causes fever, muscle aches and a more severe cough. Colds may last from 2-3 days up to a week and the flu usually lasts 3-5 days.

How do you prevent it and if you have it, what do you do?

First off, wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or touching your face. Secondly, keep yourself in good health by exercising 1/2 hour daily and eating a nutritious diet with lots of greens and a minimal amount of refined foods and sugars. Thirdly, there are some excellent natural products that can help boost the immune system and act as preventative agents such as:

Oscillococcinum –  a homeopathic preparation that has been shown to reduce the duration and intensity of the flu.

Codonopsis (2), astragalus(2), dioscorea (5),   lychii berries (10) – Simmer in a large pot of filtered water for 4 – 6 hours. Strain and keep in a pitcher in the fridge and warm and drink 1 – 2 cups per day. 1 in the morning and 1 at night. 1 Batch will last about 1 week. Use as a preventative.

Vitamin A – 5000 IU per day (avoid if pregnant or potentially pregnant)

Zinc – At least 30 mg per day

Probiotic – Take 24 billion cfu per day (for 1 month) of a good quality blend containing lactobacillus and bifidobacter.

Vitamin C – Take from 2-8 grams per day (reduce if you experience a loose stool).

In general, once you have a cold or flu then there is really only one thing that works and that is your immune system. In order to beat a cold or flu your immune system must do its work to get rid of those viruses, which is part of the reason why you feel so lousy when you are sick.

So you are sick, is there anything you can do to feel better?

Here are 5 things you can do:

1. Teas – Try sage tea for a sore throat with 1 whole clove. Here’s a great cold remedy that helps handle fever and reduce achiness, congestion, and inflammation associated with a common cold: 1 part elder, 1 part  peppermint, 1 part yarrow. Combine the ingredients. Steep 1 to 2 tsp of the mixture in 1 cup hot water for 10-25 minutes covered. Strain and drink it hot just before going to bed. It may be taken with a little honey to soothe a painful throat. Other herbs that may be added to the infusion include: Ginger – grate a small piece of fresh root ginger into the mixture for extra heat. Cinnamon – use a cinnamon stick, and break it into the mixture of herbs, for a warming and sweat-inducing effect. Cayenne – use 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) of the powder to really stimulate the circulation.

2. Essential Oils – In a bath as hot as you can stand it without causing damage, add: 1 pound Epsom Salts and the following essential oils –  3 drops Basil; 3 drops Black Pepper (no more), omit if you have very sensitive skin or known sensitivity to Black Pepper; 5 drops each of Marjoram and Rosemary. Soak for at least 20 minutes, adding hot water as the bath cools and the body accommodates. Longer soaking seems to produce better effect. After the bath apply a massage blend of 3 drop eucalyptus, 2 drops tea tree and 10 ml of evening primrose oil or other suitable oil.

3. Fresh ginger, basil, and ground black pepper – equal parts, mix with enough honey to blend – take 1/2-1 tsp of syrup every two hours.

4. Hydrotherapy – To promote sweating, warm the feet by soaking them for five to ten minutes in a hot mustard bath. Dissolve I tbsp. mustard powder in 4 cups of hot water. Use a  cold mitten friction rub, two to four times a day to loosen congestion, improve circulation and strengthen the immune system, and speed healing from the flu. Dip a small towel or washcloth into cold (10° to 15°C) water. Curl one hand into a fist and wrap the cloth around it. Use your fist to rub your other arm in a vigorous circular motion, beginning with the fingers and finishing at the shoulder. Dip the cloth in the cold water again and repeat. Your skin should be pink. Dry your arm with a towel using the same vigorous circular movement. Repeat the process on your other arm and on your legs, feet, chest and abdomen.

5. Supplements – Zinc lozenges, with up to 20 mg zinc gluconate in them, every 3 -4 hours initially. Immediately after contracting a cold, increase your Vitamin C intake. Take a Vitamin C supplement, up to 2,000 mg (or more but reduce if bowels are loose). Eat a short cleansing diet of just fresh fruit and salads, and plenty of liquids such as warm fruit juices or herb teas, to encourage a quicker recovery.