We are in the midst of the cold and flu season, and this year has been a particularly nasty one. Maybe you have already been sick? Or feel like you are constantly on the verge of becoming under the weather? Do you feel like you’re so vulnerable that if you have one bad sleep you might not get out of bed for days? Firstly, let’s talk about what we commonly get sick with, when you need to check in with your healthcare provider, and the subtle differences between colds and flu based on symptoms. We will then discuss naturopathic tips you can use throughout the winter season to build and maintain your warrior immunity.
The common cold is most often caused by the rhinovirus, which leads to the general feeling of being unwell. Unless you are struck by a SEVERE man cold, you’ll most likely be able to get through the day with the common cold. It is transmitted from person to person (via air droplets, or direct contact with the same object) and due to the 2-7 day incubation period, the onset of symptoms is gradual. You will most likely have a runny nose and stuffed up sinuses, sneezing, scratchy throat, and a slight headache. Your temperature may be slightly elevated (less than 38.7°C) or maybe normal (36.5°C -37.5°C). Symptoms usually resolve within a week. If you find a cold dragging, more rest and immune support can be added to your regime.
In contrast to the common cold, seasonal flu outbreaks are mostly caused by influenza viruses type A + B (strains vary depending on the season) and can leave you feeling like you may never leave your home (or bed) again. The flu comes on quickly and dramatically. As with a cold, you will likely experience stuffy sinuses and a runny nose, but you will also have a sore throat, are more likely to have a fever (still less than 38.7°C), a much more severe headache, extreme fatigue, body aches, and the feeling that you never want to move or eat again. You may, in fact, think you will never recover. However, because the flu is caused by a virus, it is best treated with rest and fluids alone. Antibiotics, which target bacteria, are not indicated for viral infections, and will not successfully treat a viral flu. That being said, depending on the state of your immune system, bacterial infections can develop when we are excessively run down. Therefore, if it is taking you longer than two weeks to recover, or you start to experience any shortness of breath, wheezing, severe cough, temperature greater than 40°C, or know that you are prone to immunosuppression (very young, very old, medically diagnosed), it is best to check in with your ND or MD to rule out a bacterial infection.
Now that we know the common symptoms of seasonal illness, let’s get back to immunity, and talk about how you can prevent getting sick in the first place! Here are a few simple naturopathic tips that focus on boosting the healing power of your body to strengthen your immune system, whether you have already been sick, or just want to give your immune system a boost.