Americans catch more than one billion colds a year, making it the most common infectious disease in the US. It's also the number one reason for doctor's office visits, despite the fact that conventional medicine has little to offer in the form of treatment.
One of the reasons for this is because colds are caused by viruses (and there are more than 300 cold-causing viruses), not bacteria. So taking an antibiotic for your cold will NOT do you any good whatsoever. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, such as sinus, ear and lung infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
Generally speaking, you do not need to seek medical care for a simple cold. However, if you have symptoms indicative of a bacterial infection you may want to consider visiting your doctor.
Most uncomplicated colds last between eight and nine days, but about 25 percent last two weeks, and 5-10 percent last three weeks. How quickly your cold is resolved has a lot to do with your general lifestyle habits and the state of your immune system.
More often than not, over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies will NOT cause a speedier recovery. In fact, some may simply prolong your agony by working against your body's natural defense- and healing mechanisms.
For example, one previous study showed that people who take aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) simply suppress their body's ability to produce antibodies
to destroy the cold virus. This is the complete opposite of what you're looking for…
The natural remedies listed above can help reduce your worst symptoms, which is all OTC drugs can do as well, but without the potentially dangerous side effects.
However, an even better option would be to implement certain lifestyle strategies that can help you avoid ever getting a cold in the first place.
The Importance of Maintaining a Robust Immune System
It's important to understand that the primary underlying reason for why you keep catching colds is an impaired immune system.
Just being exposed to a cold virus does not mean you will automatically catch a cold. If your immune system is operating at its peak, it should actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus without ever getting sick.
If your immune system is impaired however, viruses can easily overwhelm your natural defenses and take hold.
A robust immune system is dependent on a number of lifestyle and environmental factors, but the most common factors are:
- Optimized vitamin D levels -- Research has confirmed that "catching" colds and flu may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.
In the largest and most nationally representative study of its kind to date, people with the lowest vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu -- and the risk was even greater for those with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma.
yYou could avoid colds and influenza entirely by maintaining your vitamin D level in the optimal range. Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill both bacteria and viruses.
- Avoiding sugar and grains -- If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu, this is NOT the time to eat sugar, grains, artificial sweeteners or processed foods. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system -- which needs to be ramped up, not suppressed, in order to combat an emerging infection.
- Getting proper rest -- If you aren't getting enough sleep, or enough restorative sleep, you'll be at increased risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune system is also the most effective when you're not sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the quicker you'll recover.
- Effectively addressing emotional stressors -- Emotional stressors can predispose you to an infection and make cold symptoms worse.
- Regular exercise – Regular exercise is a crucial strategy for increasing your resistance to illness. There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by boosting your immune system.
In fact, one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50 percent. Exercise likely cuts your risk of colds so significantly because it triggers a rise in immune system cells that can attack any potential invaders.
Ideally, establish a regular fitness program, now, to help you ward off colds and other illness.
However, if you're already feeling sick don't overdo it. Over-exercising can actually place more stress on your body, which can suppress your immune system -- and you don't want that either. You might just go for a walk if you are coming down with a cold, or simply tone down your regular workout. Any rise in body temperature will be an unwelcome climate for a viral invader, though, so some exercise during a bout of cold is likely to be beneficial.
If you address these five primary factors that can make or break your immune system, you'll be well on your way to never having to suffer another cold again.
WPHL offers a list of ways to fight a cold that are more natural and more affordable than pricey, over-the-counter medicines. They include:
The inner bark of the Slippery Elm, when mixed with water, it becomes a slick gel. This gel is rich with antioxidants and coats your throat, stomach lining and intestines.
Making a tea from the herb echinacea may help fight the common cold. Goldenseal tea helps treat respiratory tract infections, eye infections and even yeast infections. Hot ginger or elderberry tea can help soothe a sore throat.
If you have a sore throat, try gargling with a honey mixture.
Nasal Saline Rinse
A natural nasal saline irrigates your nose and helps clear thick mucus and relieve pressure from your sinuses.
Steam can moisturize your nasal passages and will help the pressure from your sinuses.
White and Cider Vinegar
Wearing a pair of cotton socks soaked in white vinegar is an old, natural remedy that is still used today to reduce a fever.
White willow is a natural anti-inflammatory and fever reducing remedy.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken noodle soup has been medically proven to help cure a cold or fever. It is most effective if the soup is made with actual chicken bones in the broth.
Here's one folk remedy to cure a cough or chest cold -- chop raw pieces of garlic and mix it with olive oil. Let the mixture sit for a half hour, and then rub the mixture on the bottoms of your feet and cover with socks. The garlic will be absorbed by your skin.
Ginseng can help cure a cold or the flu, as well as prevent future colds if taken as a daily supplement.