Top Tips to Beat the Cold and Flu Faster
- The cold and flu can cause fevers, achy joints, fatigue, headache and sore throat.
- Using an integrative approach to health, you can bounce back faster and get through the crud quicker.
- My tips can help strengthen the immune system while also directly killing viruses and bacteria.
- Learn natural ways to manage fevers, earaches and sore throats.
by Dr. John Neustadt
The last couple of weeks have been tough around our house. Like dominoes, we each got sick one after another. Fevers, achy joints, fatigue, headache, sore throat. The type of sick where all you want to do is sleep or curl up in front of the tv.
Thanks to the integrative approach I’ve been teaching patients to do for years, and that I do for myself and my family, we all bounced back quickly. In fact, while people have been telling me that they’ve struggled for more than a week with symptoms, we all bounced back within three or four days. And the kids only missed two days of school each.
And then I started getting direct messages and emails from friends around the country whose family has been hit hard too. This year’s flu strain is the H1N1. While it tends to cause less severe symptoms than the H1N3 virus going around last year, most people don’t really care about the details. After all, when you’re congested, thinking through a haze and are aching all over, do you really care if it’s H1N1 or H1N3? Probably not. You just want to feel better.
After sharing my approach with a few folks and hearing what amazing results they’ve had too, I decided to write this up. Now the same info and approach I use with my family is just a few clicks away. Print this and save it or bookmark it on your computer so you can find it quickly when you need it. And you can email it to your friends and family to help them too.
The goal in fighting the seasonal crud is to do everything you can to increase how the immune system functions while also trying to kill the virus or bacteria. If you want to watch a video on this overall approach, I did a FB Live on it in 2018. I think it could be helpful in letting you know about other things you might want to do or how to modify things for your specific situation.
Please note that the information provided is for educational purposes only. I’m not giving treatment advice or recommending you do any of this. I’m merely sharing what I do for my family.
Your specific situation and needs may differ from those in this blog. If you or your child is sick, check with your healthcare provider before implementing any of these health strategies. If you have any concerns that things are not going well and you’re concerned that it’s a dangerous situation, then call your healthcare provider or take them to Urgent Care immediately.
Also, I have no financial interest in any of the products mentioned in the blog. I’m simply sharing what I do and what works for me and my family. I hope it helps you too!
Eliminate All Dairy and Sugar
Dairy is mucus forming. That can create an environment that traps the pathogens and allows them to replicate and hide out from the immune system. And sugar can decrease immune function. So eliminate all dairy and sugar.
Drink My Cold & Flu Killer Broth
Whenever someone in our family feels a little sinus congestion starting to set in, or we notice some sniffles, or we start to feel generally run down and as if our body is fighting something, we whip up a batch my cold & flu killer broth.
It’s quick and simple, containing just onion, garlic, and a few common spices. I love simple solutions because they’re easy to implement and effective.
Onion and garlic have been known for centuries for their healing properties. Modern science has confirmed that. Both have antiviral, antibiotic properties to kill both viruses and bacteria. They all also provides lots of incredible antioxidants.
Onion and garlic contain quercetin, an antioxidant that can help decrease mast cell activity. Mast cells release histamine, which creates your runny nose. They also have properties that help improve circulation and provide incredible cardiovascular benefits.
It only takes about 15 minutes to make a large pot of the broth. The recipe is on my blog. I hope you love as much as we do.
Feed or Fight a Fever?
A fever is the body’s way of combating infections and is the sign of a healthy immune system. The typical “normal” body temperature determined is 98.6° F (37º C). However, this can vary depending on the person and time of day. My daughter and wife tend to run lower. They’re “normal” is about 98.2° F (36.8° C), so if they’re at 98.6° F (37º C) or 98.8° F (37.1° C), I know they’re already running a bit high.
When we’re sick, a fever helps us fight infections. When we’re sick in my house and the body hasn’t created a fever yet, I like to help stimulate the body’s natural healing processes by stimulating a fever. I do this through a technique called home hyperthermia.
Home Hyperthermia is a type of hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is the application of hot and/or cold water to increase vitality and stimulate the immune system. It’s been practiced in many cultures around the world for thousands of years.
One example of hydrotherapy that is especially effective for the common cold is hyperthermia. This approach induces a fever and raises the core body temperature, thereby increasing the efficiency of the immune system. This approach is done in two phases: (1) hot soak, and (2) sweat phases. People frequently feel tired after doing home hyperthermia. It is best done in the evening before going to bed for the night. Complete instructions are available on the Home Hyperthermia Handout.
If one of us already has a fever, I typically want it to run its course to fight the infection more effectively and get them feeling better faster. However, if the fever becomes too high there are options I’ll turn to that can bring it down. Tylenol and Ibuprofen both can reduce fevers. However, I tend to reserve that for bedtime if they have too high a fever or if I think they’re too achy or uncomfortable to get a great night’s sleep.
While the fever is important for fighting infections, on balance my personal conclusion is that sleep is more important. If I want to bring down a fever and reduce any aches and pains so we can get a better night’s sleep, that’s when I’ll turn to the over the counter medicines.
But if the fever is too high during the day, I prefer putting the person in a lukewarm bath. I did this recently with our daughter and she was not very happy with me. She complained and whined that the water was soooooo cold.
In reality, it felt just slightly warmer than my body when I put my arm into the water. But because she was so hot, compared to her body temperature, the water felt cold. I kept her in the lukewarm water for about ten minutes. When she got out her temperature was nice and cool and she was more energetic and alert. Her appetite even came back.
Soothe a Sore Throat
Sore throats seem to be a common feature of this year’s bug that’s going around. There are wonderful options to help reduce the discomfort of a painful throat while also providing some nutrition.
There are a few things we particularly like. One is sucking or chewing on ice chips. The cold can help decrease the pain and swelling.
The other is frozen cherries. We’ll take frozen organic, pitted cherries and partially thaw them in the microwave. The goal is to have them soften up a bit while still being frozen inside. We’ll then suck on the partially thawed cherries. The cold, like with the ice, soothes the throat. And the cherries themselves have nutrients that can support the immune system and provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
We also love dairy-free smoothies. I made our daughter a smoothie with Pea milk, frozen organic mango, frozen organic peach and frozen organic cherries. I used our Nutribullet, but any blender will probably work well.
The smoothie was thick, almost as thick as ice cream. And cold. It soothed her throat while giving her excellent nutrition.
If you do this, make sure to buy only unsweetened dairy alternatives. Read the ingredients and make sure it doesn’t contain any added sugar.
Ease an Earache
I’m also hearing a lot of people complain about earaches this cold and flu season. When there’s an earache in our house, I turn to a trusted botanical solution I’ve used for years.
I’ll use garlic-mullein ear drops. These herbs are soothing and have antimicrobial properties that can kill pathogens that can cause earaches. Garlic mullein ear drops may be available at a local health food store or online.
If you have a perforated eardrum, then you shouldn’t use these drops. They’re for external use only. If you’re not sure what a ruptured eardrum feels like or if you have one, the Mayo Clinic has some great information to help you learn more.
A hot bath can loosen congestion. Essential oils can also help. Some people will do a steam inhalation using eucalyptus or other essential oils.
Because it’s easier and more convenient, I like chewing Doterra’s peppermint beadlets. They release essential oil into the mouth and the vapors are pulled into your sinuses to help clear up the congestion. Plus, they give you minty fresh breath. I typically take 2 at a time.
Consider Evidence-Based Dietary Supplements
Some natural products have been shown to reduce the duration of the flu. A 2004 study in The Journal of International Medical Research showed that adults taking 60 milliliters (mL) per day of the dietary supplement Sambucol, an elderberry extract, significantly decreased the severity of their flu symptoms compared to people who didn’t take it.
In 2017 the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a review of the research into using natural products. The researchers concluded that there is scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of several complementary approaches for colds, including the use of oral zinc, vitamin C and probiotics.
Oral zinc and regularly taking vitamin C supplements may reduce the length and severity of the flu. An earlier, 2011 review of the research published in the journal Canadian Family Physicians came to the same conclusions.
If you decide to take dietary supplements, however, it’s important to make sure you’re taking the form and amount shown in clinical trials to work. For example, the clinical trial using Sambucol gave volunteers 60 mL daily (15 mL four times a day); however, the packaging on the Sambucol standardized elderberry syrup available in stores recommends adults take 40 mL per day of the product, which is less than what was used in the clinical trial.
Since elderberry is considered non-toxic, I will take it and also give it to our children, even in higher amounts than recommended on the product. Whether or not dietary supplements are a good option for promoting your health, and the best dose for you and your family, is something to discuss with your healthcare provider.
Should You Take an Antibiotic?
Whether or not you should take an antibiotic should be discussed with your healthcare provider. But this is how I monitor my wife and children and how we make our decision as to whether or not one of us should take an antibiotic.
The vast majority of infections initially are from viruses. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Viruses are not affected. Therefore, antibiotics for viral infections are not indicated. In fact, there’s a problem with too many antibiotics being prescribed for viral infections and contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Plus, antibiotics carry some risk of side effects, so it’s best to use them as intended.
If an infection goes on for five days, it’s likely developed into a bacterial infection. If the person initially gets better and then gets worse again, what likely happened is that a secondary bacterial infection has set in. In those cases, antibiotics could be excellent treatment options.
Mousa HA. Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(1):166-174. [Article]
Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-140. [Article]
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