by Chritoph Merville, D. Pharm.
Winter seems to be synonymous with the cold and flu season. These illnesses tend to run rampant during the colder months because families spend more time indoors allowing germs to spread quicker from person to person. Additionally, many viruses often thrive in cooler temperatures. Each year children get about 6 to 10 colds, which can mean moms and dads are more likely to catch them too. More seriously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts flu each year, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications from the virus.
Although living in a bubble for the next few months might seem tempting, there are some proactive steps you can take to help protect you and your family.
Practical Ways to Stay Well
- Healthy Hygiene Habits: Any mom knows the best remedy for sickness is to stop it in its tracks. Healthy lifestyle habits, like washing your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, may help decrease the risk of illness. To help young children wash their hands properly, have them sing the “Happy Birthday” song as they lather up. Washing your hands for two rounds of the “Happy Birthday”song is an adequate amount of time to eliminate many infectious germs. Opt for regular soap and water instead of antibacterial cleaners. Recent studies show that soaps containing the antibacterial chemical triclosan are not any more effective in killing germs than regular soap and water. Additionally, these types of soaps may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs and possibly have a negative effect on the immune system.
- Fuel the Family with Nutrition: According to the scientific journal “Clinical & Experimental Immunology,” almost 70 percent of the immune system lies in the digestive tract. Eating a well-balanced diet is particularly vital during cold and flu season. Incorporating foods rich in probiotics can help stave off colds. A 2012 research study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those who took a probiotic supplement with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a type of healthy bacteria, recovered earlier from their colds and reported less severe symptoms. Additionally, adding garlic to the menu may help your body ward off colds and flu because it contains vitamin C and zinc. Make garlic tastier for picky eaters by crushing and mixing it with honey, adding it to dips or combining it with butter for a spread on toast.
- Rest Well: Getting adequate sleep is important not only when recovering from a virus, but also in protecting the body from illness. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night; teens 8 to 10 hours; school- age children 9 to 11 hours; and, toddlers 11 to 14 hours. A study published in the journal “Sleep” found that individuals who did not get the recommended sleep per night were more likely to get a cold. This was regardless of other social and lifestyle factors, such as age, stress levels and whether they were a smoker or non-smoker.
Remedies for Relief
If you’ve taken all of the precautionary steps and a family member still gets sick, homeopathic medicines can help you address symptoms quickly. These medicines are non-drowsy, have a low risk of side effects and no known drug interactions. They help stimulate the body to rebalance and heal itself. Homeopathics that are particularly helpful this time of year are:
- Spongia tosta 6C: A dilution of a roasted sea sponge, Spongia tosta temporarily relieves a croupy, barking cough, especially after being exposed to cold * The cough is usually worse at night when lying down.
- Aconitum napellus 30C: This medicine, commonly known as Monkshood, has beautiful and complex flowers that are helmet shaped hence its name. Aconitum temporarily relieves a high fever of sudden onset, with a hot face and dry skin.*
- Allium cepa 6C: Allium is derived from the onion and is recommended for spasmodic sneezing and a runny nose that has an irritating and watery discharge that is improved by fresh air.*
- Kali bichromicum 6C: Kali offers relief for a cold with thick, greenish, irritating nasal discharge.*
- Drosera 6C: This is a dilution of the Sundew, a type of carnivorous Homeopathic Drosera helps relieve a dry cough, worse at night and from the warmth of the bed.* It is also recommended for dry coughs that are triggered by speaking or laughing, or coughs with a feeling of tickling in the throat.
- Pulsatilla 6C: Pulsatilla, commonly known as the Wind flower, helps relieve non-irritating yellowish nasal discharge that becomes runny during the day.* It’s also accompanied by a loss of smell and taste.
- Eupatorium perfoliatum 6C: Eupatorium, commonly called Boneset, addresses the bone pains and body aches associated with the flu and severe colds.*
- Oscillococcinum®: For all-in-one flu relief, there’s Oscillococcinum. This medicine has been a staple in French households for more than 70 years because of its ability to reduce both the duration and severity of flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headache, fever, chills and fatigue.*
To guide you in how to relieve a variety of other acute, seasonal conditions with homeopathic medicines, explore the Boiron Medicine Finder app. This free resource, available on Android and iOS devices, will help you find the right homeopathic medicine in three clicks or less for many everyday conditions.
- Tracey Smith, Diane Rigassio-Radler, Robert Denmark, Timothy Haley, Riva Touger-Decker. Effect of Lactobacillusrhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012; 1 DOI: 10.1017/ S0007114512004138.
- Papp R, Schuback G, Beck E, et al. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled, double-blind evaluation. Br Homeopath 1998;87:69-76.
- Ferley JP, Zmirou D, D’Adhemar D, Balducci A controlled evaluation of a homeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenza-like syndromes. Br J Clin Phar- macol. 1989;27:329-335.
- Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Co- chrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 6. Art. : CD001364. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364. pub4. Published Online: 18 JUN 2013.
- National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. National Sleep Foundation – Sleep Research & Education. https://sleep- org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times. Published February 2015. Accessed January 19, 2017.
- Steckelberg JM. Triclosan: Is it safe? Mayo http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/triclosan/faq-20057861. Published September 21, 2016. Accessed January 17, 2017
- Rosen LD, Cohen Treatment alternatives for children. New York: Alpha Books; 2012
- Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Cara GD, Frati Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pmc/articles/PMC2515351/. Published September 2008. Accessed January 19, 2017.
- Firger Get More Sleep to Avoid the Common Cold. Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/lack-sleep- makes-you-more-prone-colds-weakening-your-immune-system-367376. Published April 16, 2016. Accessed January 18,2017.
*These “Uses” have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration