The cold and flu season has arrived, and that means that tens of thousands of people will be coughing, sneezing and feeling under the weather.
Adults typically get two to four colds per year while young children can get eight colds per year or more. Not surprisingly, the common cold is a leading cause of time lost from work and school absenteeism.
The common cold and flu are caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract. These viruses are spread by sneezing, coughing or hand-to-hand contact. The viruses can live for several hours on hard surfaces such as doorknobs, phones and keyboards so it is possible to contract a bug by touching an object that has been recently touched by someone who is infected.
Cold and flu cause some similar symptoms such as fatigue, sore throat and congestion. They differ in that the flu causes a sudden onset of severe aching, pain and high fever while colds develop more slowly and primarily cause sneezing, runny nose and cough.
To keep your immune system functioning optimally, and prevent winter cold and flu consider the following:
• Get adequate sleep so your body can repair; skimping on sleep can weaken your immune system.
• Wash your hands frequently. Teach children to wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.
• Sanitize shared objects such as phones, door handles and remote controls.
• Limit close contact with those who are sick.
• Exercise. Research suggests that moderate exercise, such as a 30- to 60-minute brisk walk, can improve immune function.
• Fortify your immune system by eating vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruit, berries, peppers, garlic and onions.
• Drink green tea: it contains antioxidants that support the immune system.
A clinical trial conducted a few years ago by University of Florida and the Nutritional Science Research Institute found that a specific combination of ingredients found in Immune Guard – including the amino acid L-theanine (Suntheanine) and decaffeinated catechins, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg; Sunphenon) – may enhance the body’s immune system, resulting in a decreased incidence and duration of cold and flu symptoms.
If you do get sick, get extra rest and stay home if possible so that you aren’t spreading your germs. Here are some strategies to get you on the mend:
• Sip on a hot drink with Echinacea and elderberry; these herbs help support the immune system and speed healing.
• Suck on zinc lozenges. Zinc is anti-viral and can help reduce cold symptoms.
• Try a saline nasal rinse or neti pot to clear nasal congestion and lubricate the sinus passages.
• Calm a stubborn cough with a teaspoonful of buckwheat honey.