Your Cold and Flu Arsenal: 3 Tips to Stay Well During Cold Season
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By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
The common cold (and its evil cousin, the respiratory flu) seem to be just facts of life for many of us. And, now that those of us north of the equator are deep into the winter season, it can seem like we’re surrounded by sniffles.
Unless you’re holed up on a mountain top you can’t escape the cacophony of coughs and sneezes that abound in public spaces, and it’s all made worse in cold climates where that space is firmly sealed up against the bitter temperatures.
Even if you live in the other side of the world and are looking ahead to months of sunshine – you can still benefit by arming yourself against marauding viruses. Summer colds are almost worse than sniffling through the damp winter days. After all, who wants to be sneezing poolside?
Luckily, you’re not doomed. That ounce of prevention really can be a pound of cure when it comes to either avoiding a cold completely, or shortening its duration.
I spent nearly 30 years on the cold and damp Northern California coast, where cold and flu viruses really loved to settle in. Lingering colds, and often subsequent respiratory infections, proliferated as vigorously as a healthy zucchini plant during the summer months.
We even had a special name for the affliction: the Humboldt Crud. (I’ve since discovered that Humboldt County is not the only place on the planet where people not-so-lovingly refer to winter respiratory distress as The Crud.)
During those years as an herbalist, a mom, and a busy shop-owner who didn’t have the leisure for days off in bed, I became pretty expert in finding natural remedies and preventatives for the bane of The Crud.
Now, I live at a high altitude in Central Mexico, where temperatures dip low at night but climb into the high 60s or 70s during the day. Between winds, dust, and no central heat, we’ve got some even more virulent versions of the cold and flu, and this inspired me to revisit my arsenal of natural preventatives and treatments.
No matter where you live, the common cold virus lives there too. But the good news is, there ARE ways to combat its stealthy attack. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share a few different tips each week here on Confluence Daily.
I hope you can adopt at least a few of these and reduce (or eliminate) the number of days you spend constantly reaching for the kleenex.
Get these habits into place, and some supplies in your cupboards now, before you are stricken.
Here are three easy tips for natural prevention.
1) Wash Your Hands – Often
You’re probably thinking, Oh, come on, really? But before you click away in disgust at such basic advice, bear with me a minute.
If you’re already a good hand-washer, become a better one. This single action prevents more cold and flu bugs than anything else. That’s why I had to include it, even though it’s kind of a no-brainer.
And you have to do it for more than a couple of seconds. That’s where I’ve tended to fall off the wagon – as I rush through my day, I end up deciding that a quick rinse will take care of things.
Not so, it turns out. According to my medical professional friends, you get the best results from a thorough soapy, between-the-fingers hand washing. And scrubbing them every couple of hours is another key – especially if your personal space is crowded with sniffly coworkers or family members.
But one caveat: skip the antibacterial soaps! Despite the environmental nightmare that these chemical concoctions product, an even bigger reason to eschew these soaps is that they’ve been linked to the mutation of stronger and more resistant viruses and bacteria. So, ditch the antibacterial stuff, and just stick with a nice natural liquid or bar soap.
If you really want your hand soap to have some extra oomph to kill those germs, add in a few drops of any essential oil to your favorite liquid soap. All essential oils have antimicrobial action. Eucalyptus, lemon or peppermint are all good choices to add to a soap.
Kids have the hardest time with the hand washing thing – and as anyone who works in schools knows well – they are the biggest culprits in spreading around bugs. So, teach them now while they’re young. Instill that good habit and they’ll reward you by bringing home far fewer sicknesses.
2) Get Enough Sleep
I admit, this is a piece of advice that I am still struggling to follow in my own life. (How did it get to be 12:30 already? And how will I manage to wake up at 5:30 for my exercise routine?)
I often find myself wishing that my body would thrive on about five hours of sleep. But the annoying truth is that it simply won’t.
A few nights of that and my immune system is gasping for breath.
Why does lack of sleep suppress the immune system? There’re lots of different reasons, and entire books and articles have been written on just this subject. But let’s just look at two important things that happen (or don’t happen).
When your body has not been allowed sufficient rest, it stops producing white blood cells as fast as it would under normal circumstances. These white blood cells are your disease-fighting team, and if you don’t have as many, you’re not fighting the germs as effectively.
When you experience plentiful deep, restful sleep your body naturally releases interferon and other potent immune-enhancing compounds. You want these compounds circulating through your system and doing their work. Skimping on the shut-eye just doesn’t cut it if you want to stay disease-free.
I spent a lot of years ignoring these facts – and those years were punctuated with three or four debilitating colds per year. In recent times – as it began to sink in what a negative effect lack of sleep was having on my health – I’ve worked hard at allowing myself enough rest. And it’s definitely paying off in fewer visits from ‘The Crud.’
3) Start Eating Astragalus
This Chinese herb that has been used for centuries to strengthen and tonify the immune system. It’s an herb that’s great to use before you get sick, rather than others that you might use once the sniffles take hold.
You can buy astragalus as a supplement and take it in capsules or as a tincture. But eating it is what people did before we had all these fancy bottles to choose from.
Purchase some dried root slices – available at most herb shops or online – they look like oddly contoured tongue depressers. You can actually just throw one of these into your soup, or into a pot of rice or whatever other grain you are cooking.
Just let the astragalus root simmer away with the rest of the food, releasing all of its essential vitality-boosting goodness. It lends a subtle, pleasant and earthy flavor. When your soup (or rice) is done, simply fish out the astragalus root and compost it.
You can also brew up a tea with your astragalus roots.
Since it’s important to consume astragalus on a regular basis, you might want to purchase it as a supplement in addition to cooking with it – unless you make soups or rice every single day.
Incorporate all of these into your life, and you may be amazed at how well your immune system responds. Check in next week for three more power-tips for chasing away cold and flu bugs this winter.
More by Sarah:
Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’, helping clients rediscover their passions and reinvent themselves no matter what their age or circumstance. In her previous career she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for over three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com
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