Winter is descending and with it the onslaught of seasonal bugs that typifies this time of year. Our immunity drops and our likelihood of catching a virus is much higher.
Whilst simple colds are rarely serious, they are unpleasant, and certainly after nearly two years of covid restrictions, none of us want to share bugs around.
Our ultimate guide to colds and complementary health shows you the best way to naturally tackle seasonal colds with a natural health focus.
Why are we so much more likely to get a cold in winter?
Shorter days and longer nights might make a great opportunity to snuggle up with blankets and hide, but they’re not good for our immunity.
Lower sunshine levels in winter lower the body’s production of vitamin D, the vitamin that helps with our bone density and overall immunity. We then bundle up and hide from the weather when we do go out, creating a double-whammy of low vitamin D production.
Cold viruses also have a lipid coating that toughens in the cold, making them more resistant to treatments and faster to carry.
The cold, dry days that are so sharp and clean are a lovely part of winter, but unfortunately, they also mean the air is less moist and when we cough or sneeze, viruses stay in the atmosphere for longer so it’s harder to avoid them.
We also tend to crowd for warmth on public transport, in bars and classrooms, making the likelihood of transmission by touch much easier.
Exposure to more severe weather and then moving indoors can impact our immune system.
We also tend to eat fewer fresh ingredients in winter, and rely on comforting food rich in carbohydrates. Whilst this is great for feeling full, it’s less likely they’ll be nutrient rich, so our immune system may need more nourishment
Is it a cold, flu or something worse?
A common cold usually starts slowly, lasting for no more than seven days on average. According to the NHS, symptoms can include:
- a blocked or runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell
The symptoms are the same in adults and children. Sometimes symptoms last longer in children.
Flu usually differs by starting far more quickly, usually with a sore throat and lasting for more than seven days. It may also be debilitating, whereas a cold, whilst unpleasant is usually manageable.
Omicron and other Covid-19 variants have symptoms very similar to a cold, so always follow your country guidelines for testing and management before assuming you have a cold
How to Naturally Prevent Colds
Countries like Scotland, Norway and Sweden know that many of their residents don’t ever get enough light to produce adequate Vitamin D, so they recommend a supplement as par for the course.
We’d certainly recommend taking a daily stroll in the daylight - even if just for 10 minutes - to get a few vitamin-D stimulating sun rays - however few this may be. - Don’t forget to apply a good natural moisturiser on your face before you go out to protect from the wind and cold!
Your diet isn’t a guarantee of not catching cold, but it can help in supporting your immunity and your ability to recover from viruses with greater ease:
Consider a diet rich in:
Some people swear by taking high doses of vitamin C to stave off colds. Evidence for this is mixed, but certainly, long term consistent levels of vitamin C have been shown to help reduce the severity and duration of the cold.
Vitamin C can also help improve immunity in those exposed to the cold virus more regularly, such as frontline workers and school age children.
HOW TO TAKE IT
Through lots of fresh fruit, in particular purple fruits and sweet potato. Supplements can also help. Opt for the ‘time release’ vitamin C supplements as your body cannot store vitamin C and will get most benefit from a steady release over several hours.
Studies of Echinacea, a naturally sourced supplement derived from the Echinacea flower vary in their results. It seems to be most effective at reducing cold symptoms if you take it when you notice cold symptoms and continue it for seven to 10 days.
It can interact with other drugs, so check with your doctor before consuming.
HOW TO TAKE IT
Through tincture, or supplements.
HOW TO NATURALLY SUPPORT COLD SYMPTOMS
Antibiotics won’t help to treat a cold and it’s rare you’ll need medical interventions, but there are many ways that natural treatments can lessen symptoms and ease discomfort.
Use essential oils as a decongestant:
Oils including peppermint, spearmint, tea tree and eucalyptus are all helpful at clearing a blocked stuffy nose.
You can either use these as a vaporiser with a few drops in hot water, suspended in a balm and rubbed on the chest or dropped onto a tissue to inhale (not suitable for children less than 24 months).
Odylique also offer a curated blend of ‘breathing oils, with a version for children and adults that can help.
If you lose your taste and smell, it can kill your appetite. It’s vital you take on fluids regularly. A mix of honey and lemon in warm water can also help soothe a sore throat.
If a child is running a temperature, it can be tempting to strip them off and do old school things like cold compresses.
Modern wisdom is to cover them in light layers, and use an organic cotton cloth with room temperature water to keep their temperature regulated.
Using ginger steeped in tea can be a very lovely way to soothe muscle cramps, aid warming and ease a sore throat.
Viruses spread far more easily in dry environments, so introducing more humidity in your home can reduce your risk of exposure. It also helps ease nasal inflammation, soothing stuffy noses and making breathing more comfortable.
Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a cool mist humidifier can really make you feel better.
A Warm Bath:
A soak in a warm (but not too hot) bath is a gentle way to ease muscle aches, and soothe feelings of lethargy.
Add a few drops of your favourite bubble or shower gel.
A gentle massage for a child or poorly loved one, on the feet or shoulders and chest might not transform the cold but can lead to a feeling of care and wellness that helps healing.
Be gentle and sure to keep the other person warm, using a light oil to soothe – this isn’t meant to be vigorous.
Knowing your pulse points can also help. The point at the inner corner of the eyebrows pushed gently for three seconds can clear congestion.
Remember, the water used in humidifiers needs to be changed daily to stop mould and other fungi from growing. For the same effect without a humidifier, take a long shower or linger in a steamy bathroom.
Finally, allow yourself to rest. In our busy lives, it can be tempting to rush to work, and carry on with our lives. The longer you ignore your body's need to heal, the worse you’ll get. Sleep propped up to avoid a cough, and don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a break.
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