The common cold and the flu (influenza) are viruses that are highly infectious. Unfortunately, there is no cure for them, but after a week or two they usually burn themselves out and their symptoms fade. Cold and Flu symptoms include: hot and/or cold sweats, body aches, headache, cough, and fatigue. Most colds do not cause fever and significant fatigue like the influenza virus does. The normal duration for a cold is 3-7 days, with symptoms occurring up to 10 days. For influenza infection, the duration and symptoms are much more variable, duration lasting 7-14 days and symptoms lasting up to four weeks. If cold or flu symptoms last longer than the above times, a person may have contracted an opportunistic bacterial infection, and should notify their physician. There are over 200 viral strains that can cause colds and influenza, so vaccines have not been very successful, since they can often only target one strain at a time. If you have a fever, or your mucus is dark yellow, green or brown, notify your physician. Everyone with a cold or flu infection should drink plenty of spring water, at least six glasses (48 oz.) per day.
For the common cold, there are a number of different treatments. Antihistamines are effective in reducing symptoms, but have side effects such as drowsiness. One study found that driving after taking the first-generation antihistamine Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can cause impairment equivalent to driving drunk. Nasal sprays can also help cold symptoms, and the side effects are relatively mild. Stimulants such as Sudafed are powerful decongestants, but their constant use can lead to drug tolerance, where withdrawal of the decongestant can lead to even worse congestion. Tylenol, aspirin, and Ibuprofen can actually worsen common cold symptoms.
The reason why hot chicken soup may be helpful for colds is because it helps mucus flow out of the sinus and respiratory system. Some people use cayenne pepper to help clear their sinuses. Small amounts should be fine for this use, as long as someone is not allergic to the peppers. Steam inhalation to reduce cold symptoms gives inconsistent results. However, drinking plenty of water is always a good idea when someone has a cold or the flu. Adequate hydration thins out the mucus and helps clear the virus from the sinuses. There is some evidence that bovine colostrum reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the cold and flu. Bovine colostrum is the pre-milk produced from a cow that has just given birth. Pregnant and nursing women should not take this supplement, nor should anyone with cancer or with a high risk of developing cancer.
There are a few different medications now to reduce the duration and severity of influenza. However, these drugs have side effects, including difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and dizziness. If someone decides to get a flu shot, they should demand information about whether the vaccine contains thimerosal or not. Thimerosal is a vaccine preservative that contains 50% mercury. Mercury is a well-known neurotoxin, among other things. Some people like to take antibiotics whenever they feel ill. However, antibiotics kill only bacteria, not viruses. And yet 60% of patients with common cold symptoms received an antibiotic at the clinic anyway.
Vitamin C and Zinc are highly recommended to help prevent colds and flu. There is more mixed evidence about whether these two supplements actually decrease the duration and severity of colds and flu. Some practitioners recommend megadosing with vitamin A, often 50,000-100,000 IU/day, but this amount can be toxic to some people, especially if they have any liver conditions. If someone wants to megadose safely with vitamin A, they should consider using the much safer beta-carotene instead, since it is converted to vitamin A in the intestines as needed. Heavy smokers and drinkers should notify their physician before megadosing with beta-carotene.
There is not consistent evidence that supplementing with vitamin C significantly reduces the incidence of the common cold. There are, however, isolated studies that do find some reduction in cold incidence. When study subjects took 0.6-1 gram of vitamin C every day, there was a considerable reduction in common cold incidence. Between 1971 and 1994, 21 different studies were performed that attempted to determine if vitamin C helped fight off colds or not. All 21 studies showed that vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of the common cold, and its severity was reduced by an average of 23%. However, there was no reduction in the incidence of the common cold with vitamin C supplementation.
When purchasing zinc logenges to fight off a cold or flu, you should always look at the ingredients on the package. Zinc gluconate, ascorbate, glycinate, and acetate are much more effective against colds and flu than zinc citrate or tartrate. Unflavored zinc gluconate lozenges, with no additional additives (ex. citrate), may be more effective against the common cold than flavored zinc lozenges. One of the side effects of zinc overdose may be loss of taste and/or smell, so do not supplement with more than 80 mg/day of zinc for more than a week at a time, and no more than 50 mg/day of zinc between cold or flu infections. As you have read, there are many different natural remedies for cold and flu infections. However, the key is to help prevent cold and flu viruses from gaining a foothold in your respiratory system, by exercising, eating healthy, minimizing stress, and taking the proper immune-boosting supplements.
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