Coughs and cold, some quick facts?

You know when you come down with body aches and a runny nose, the “oh no” that feeling again, “I’ve got a cold coming on”?

It is anticipated statistically that the average person will encounter 1-2 viruses/bacterial infections each year resulting in a “cold”.  Australian quoted figures seem high to me , now stating 5 colds per year per adult is normal! That is a lot if you need a week off work each time!

Hey, after 6 years selling anti-biotics as a rep, 25 years as a nurse and now a decade or so as a naturopath, I feel I have a good grasp of the science and mythology behind coughs and colds.

Without going all sciencey on you there are two sorts – upper respiratory tract infections (URTi) are typically caused by either a virus (typically influenzae A, B and other viruses) or a bacteria (AKA bugs, eg strept, pseudomonias, mycoplasma) . There are others such as yeast, moulds etc but the general day to day cough or cold is caused by these by a virus or bacteria.

Can you tell if it viral or bacterial?

Generally a virus will make your body ache, make you feel tired and give you a clear runny nose. You might also get a tickly throat, have a headache, or feel like your life is ended (especially if it’s man flu – BEWARE).

Generally a bacterial infection will make you mucous change colour (yellow, brown, green), give you a cough, which might contain coloured sputum (YUM), might give you a temperature and also can give you body aches but maybe not as much as a virus.

Both can give you shortness of breath and suck the life out of you.

Little kids can develop diarrhoea if their lymph glands are inflammed and cry a lot as it hurts!

General advice

Ideally when you come down with symptoms, you quarantine yourself. Or go home sick from work.

Cough into a tissue and through it out (ring a ring a rosie, a pocket full of posies) was about a massive flu outbreak that killed thousands. The biggest intervention following this was not the advent of amoxicillin, but the introduction of tissues! The spread of influenzae decreased massively.

Spread also goes down with good ventilation (windows open, doors open) which is one postulate why infection rates go up during winter when doors are shut.

Spread also goes down when people have adequate vitamin D levels – daily sun exposure (for non-high risk melanoma people) is critical.

Spread from innominate objects (door handles, key boards, Eftpos keys, dollar bills) also important. There is nothing worse than watching someone bark into their hand and shake yours, or touch a door knob that you are about to turn (YUK)!

What can you do if you have a cold?

Depending on the severity (are you wheezing, is your baby struggling to breathe, do they have a blue ring around their lips, is the cough non-stop, how hard is it to breathe) will determine your line of action. The mentioned ones in brackets are serious and need action!

These are very broad guidelines and really use your judgement, especially if it is for a baby. The worst thing with a baby is when they are sucking in their ribs to breathe. This warrants medical attention.

But from a natural perspective working up in severity/intensity (go to bed)!

1. Take vitamin C (higher dose adults 2000-6000mg a day), zinc 100mg in divided dosing boost white blood cells (but have with food), echinacea, olive leaf, andrographis (good for bacteria or virus)

2. Flush your sinuses, your throat with a spray or water douche.

3. Try homeopathics – belladonna, pulsitila and a few others from a health food shop

4. Try essential oils – there are many that boost your immunity and can leverage your own defence system

5. Consult a pharmacist (they are really good at giving over the counter advice)

6. Consult a naturopath (they are really good at giving tips and medium term strategies)

7. Consult a doctor or emergency department (trust your gut). These things can be life threatening and sometimes you need anti biotics, breathing assistant measures (ventolin etc) when other things haven’t worked.

8. Soups, hot drinks (water and lemon), bed rest and sleep are the corner stone for knocking a cold on the head.

The reality of a sneeze…..

Anyway this is all from the top of my head. I am sure there are other things you can do and please any tips put below. (Oh yes, chicken soup broth is awesome with ginger when symptoms first starting).