Cold? Flu? What should you do?

Guest Blog Contributed by Chamber Member Dr. April Voves, Naturopathic Primary Care Physician at West Chiropractic & Wellness.

 

Cold? Flu? What should you do?

It is that time of year again, pull out those sweaters and scarfs the air is cool and crisp, the leaves are changing…and snot, sneezes, and coughs are everywhere! Cold and flu season is among us. What can you do about it? Arm yourself with this educational information on cold and flu season so you can stay healthy this season.

The Common Cold

The common cold is well, common, the most frequent illness in the industrialized world in fact! Typically, adults will have two or three colds a year (keep reading for tips on how to stay healthy!). Most colds are spread through the hands either via shaking a contaminated hand or touching a surface with germs. Cold causing viruses can survive for about two hours on human skin. Gross! They can also be spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing. Like I tell my kids, please use your cough corner!

There are over 200 different types of viruses that are responsible for those runny and congested noses, sore throats, coughs, and fatigue. Colds usually persist for three to ten days but can last for two weeks. Since the cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not helpful and may leave you with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a serious gut infection. Yuck! Immune boosting vitamins, herbs, and teas can help you recover quicker. Talk with your local naturopathic physician (such as me!) to see if these treatment options are safe for you.

Common Myth: Green or yellow snot (nasal discharge) = bacterial cause.

The Facts: Colored discharge is a normal phase of an uncomplicated cold due to a viral infection.

You are most contagious for the first three days of illness and your co-workers will thank you if you take advantage of Oregon’s Paid Sick Leave Policy and use the time to rest and recover.

The common cold rarely causes complications but it may lead to a sinus infection, worsening asthma, lung infection, or an ear infection. If you are concerned about your health, always seek professional medical help. And, no WebMD does not count!

Influenza AKA the Flu

If you feel like you have been hit by a bus, you might have the flu! Influenza characteristically begins ABRUPTLY with fever, headache, body aches, fatigue followed by a cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Similar to the common cold, the flu is spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing.

Common Myth: Vomiting and diarrhea = flu or that a “stomach bug” is the flu.

The Facts: While vomiting and diarrhea can occur with the flu (more often in children), typically the flu causes fever, cough, body aches, runny nose, and/or congestion.

The flu, like the common cold, is a virus and therefore antibiotics will not treat the flu. However, there are antiviral medications, that may be helpful. These medications are typically reserved for populations that are at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu and work best if started within 48 hours of symptom onset.

There are many factors that go into deciding if antiviral medications are the safest and most effective treatment option for you. Often, my patients are desperate for anything to make them feel better or avoid getting sick (I get it, the flu sucks!) but these medications are not without side effects. Antivirals can cause nausea, vomiting, and headaches and may only shorten the course of the flu by a few hours. Speak with a trusted medical professional to find out what is right for you.

Most people recover from the flu in a few days to two weeks. But it is important to note that the flu can cause a whole slew of complications including possible death, but most commonly pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if your symptoms are not improving or worsening.

Rest is best! It is particularly important to stay home from school or work if you have the flu. You are most contagious for the first five days but can continue to spread the virus for up to ten days. You should wait at least 24 hours after your fever has resolved before returning to work or school or until you are feeling well enough to learn and be a productive employee.

Common Myth: The flu vaccine will give you the flu.

The Facts: This simply isn’t true!

The single best thing you can do to prevent the flu (aside from living in isolation for winter) is to get your flu vaccine! The flu vaccine saves lives! Last year, 80,000 people died from complications of influenza virus, most were not vaccinated. Even if you still end up getting the flu after being vaccinated it is usually less severe. Getting your flu vaccine can help keep you alive and healthy so you don’t miss work and most importantly, can attend all those holiday parties!

Prevention

Here are some tips to keep you healthy this winter season:

  • Fist bump instead of handshaking? Remember, some viruses can survive on the human skin for two hours.
  • Scrub a dub dub! Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Wash your hands after using the bathroom (duh!), blowing your nose, handling trash, touching animals, and prior to touching food.
  • Good Nutrition! Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.
  • Sleep! Sleep is the body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself. Aim for 7-8 hours per night, much more for children!
  • Move your body! Exercise helps with anxiety, stress, and getting a restful night’s sleep. All important for illness prevention.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way. Try wearing a motorcycle helmet if you can’t keep your hands off your face.
  • Vitamin C 1000mg once per day. If loose stools occur, decrease dosage.

Treatment

If there was a cure for the common cold, someone would be very wealthy! Until then, here are some steps you can take to recover more quickly.

  • Get plenty of rest! Seriously, stop and rest! I know, no one has time to be sick, but you will recover quicker if you allow yourself to rest. (Plus, it’s a great excuse to binge on that latest show).
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Eat light meals during illness. Give your digestive tract a break and use that energy to fight off the illness.
  • Zinc supplementation. Aim for 30-50mg once per day for no more than 10 days.
  • Elderberry Syrup 5ml (1 teaspoon) three to four times per day for 5 days.

Zinc, elderberry syrup, and vitamin C are generally safe for most adults but consult your physician if you are unsure, pregnant or nursing, or considering giving to a child.

There are many other herbs and supplements that can help prevent or treat colds and the flu, but it is best to consult your local naturopathic physician and discuss the risks and benefits as they pertain to your health. There are many over the counter (OTC) medications that can ease your symptoms, but these should be used for the shortest duration possible to limit unwanted side effects.

It can be tricky to figure out exactly what is going on, if you are unsure about what to do or have questions, it is always best to seek the care of a medical professional.

Remember, stay hydrated, keep your hands clean, rest, and get your flu vaccine!

For more information on this topic, contact Dr. April of West Chiropractic & Wellness.
Phone: (503) 628-9082| email: dr.aprilvoves@nwipcare.com| website: www.mywestchiropractic.com

 

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