A Few More Things for Colds (November 3, 2015)
Last week’s newsletter on prevention and natural treatments for colds and flus generated an unprecedented response from alert readers -- as many as several! So I thought that it might be nice to take the subject up again this week with a little more community input, as the saying goes.
From Adrienne K. (who was a public health nurse for a number of years, so this should be good):
Two of the best methods I've found for avoiding transfer of germs of ANY kind, in particular, though, the frequent URI (upper respiratory infection) associated with runny noses and coughing, are these - do NOT shake hands with people. If one MUST shake hands, immediately (or as soon as possible) excuse yourself from the room and go WASH your hands.
I always wash my hands after I've been cornered into shaking hands with people anyway.No telling WHERE those hands have been.
ALSO - WASH your hands after ANY contact with "the outside" or "the other" - shopping, visiting friends (or get new friends who are a little less Other), touching anything outside home (on the "tourist theory" - home germs have "built up immunity" while any place else is like going to Mexico, only you're just going to Cracker Barrel where the concentration of dirty, nasty nose-picking strangers is higher and has no "built up immunity"), decreased frequenting of restaurants (which is counter intuitive since it is "the holiday season" [bah humbug] when EVERYONE wants to go "out to eat" - bringing me back to "the tourist theory"). You get my point.
Cracker Barrel IS a lot like Tijuana, Adrienne, I’m with you there. And, distressingly, the number of dirty, nasty, nose-picking strangers seems to be steadily increasing, and not just in Tijuana and Cracker Barrel, but on Second Avenue as well! And all we can do is wash our hands and pray.
I wish to point out that even though it’s universally believed URIs are shared through teeny little respiratory droplets in the air and on surfaces, NO ONE HAS EVER PROVED IT. Therefore NO ONE IS TOTALLY SURE HOW COLD AND FLU GERMS ARE SPREAD. They can send a man to the moon (or, if you must, they could fake it in the Arizona desert) but they can’t tell you where that cold came from. Still, I don't know anything else that makes sense. So wash your hands. What's the worse that could happen?
From Don H.:
what about burning it out with hot baths and blankets?
What about it? Oh, you want ME to look it up. Well, here’s what one Australian website said:
"Myth: You can sweat out a cold...
…while having a hot bath or rugging up may mean you feel better, it won't make a difference to your recovery time. 'You won't get rid of a cold by sweating it out,' Dr. McCoy says. (The real Dr. McCoy would NEVER say that!) Dr. Hampson (who are these guys?) says that sometimes our body naturally develops a high temperature in order to get rid of an illness, but forcing it to heat up won't help."
And Dr. Hampson knows this how? I’m surprised at those Aussies. Because one of the ways that the chinese herbs for colds and flus work is by inducing sweating, and China is right next door to them! (Well, compared to us, they are.) But "sweating it out" at the onset of a cold is done all over the world, and you'd think that one thing doctors would have learned in the last few years is not to sneer at common cultural practices without at least one pretty solid leg to stand on.
Here’s the trick to sweating out a cold, because I’ve done it successfully. It has to be done RIGHT AT FIRST when you are just starting to come down with something. (If you’ve got a full-blown cold, flu or especially fever, it will not work.) You take a hot bath, then roll up in blankets and stay all hot and uncomfortable, sweating like a pig (do pigs really sweat? Gross) for at least a few hours.
Despite all the fake-science websites chortling in unison that “sweating it out” is just so much new age hippie dippie wishful thinking, I couldn’t find one single bit of actual research supporting their position. Unless you count the very few studies where exercise was used to bring on the sweat. Since inducing sweating by exercise is not part of the actual practice and is clearly throwing an entirely new physiological wrench into the works, these studies don't cut the mustard. Nope. You can safely ignore your doctor on this one.
Not that exercise in the early stages of a URI is a bad idea. There is evidence that seems to show less illness if you do exercise in those very early stages. So IF you usually exercise. AND you actually feel like doing so despite feeling a little puny, you COULD try the exercise thing. But only If you really want to.
Continuing onward with solutions to colds and flus, I must again mention Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps. These things are the ultimate remedy for nausea in all its forms. To my knowledge they have successfully treated nausea from the flu, and from morning sickness, AND from pain medication. Not surprisingly because ginger is one of the key ingredients in the Chinese herbal formulas for colds and flus. If you want a little more medicinal punch than you get from the cookies, you can cut fresh slices of ginger root, boil them a bit in water and then drink that as a tea. Ginger works for cough and sore throat as well as nausea, and if you use it at the onset, it might help prevent one of those URIs as well.
To repeat from last week, an antimicrobial substance with solid research behind it for alleviating cold symptoms and maybe even for preventing one is garlic. Honey is the real deal as well, for alleviating cough and for sore throat pain, and it too is antimicrobial. I don’t know who it was who originally thought of putting them together – certainly not Emeril – but it can be done. Read on.
Last year someone told me about garlic cloves infused with honey as a flu preventative. So I packed up a little jar, stuck it in the refrigerator and forgot about it (except when I stumbled on to it whenever I was actually looking for salsa). And! When I thought I might be coming down with something a few weeks ago, I fished it out and consumed a clove every couple of hours for most of the day. I won’t say that said garlic was a taste treat, but it had none of the bite of raw garlic (nor any of the odor by that time, either) and I’ll be tied-and-dried if they didn’t chase the cold off by the next morning.
So here is my personal ritual for warding off colds and flus. Wash my hands like mad, pop a honeyed-garlic clove every night, and get enough sleep. When something has snuck past those defenses, sweat it out for an afternoon and evening, all the while drinking ginger tea and chowing down a lot more garlic. If you try this, let me know how it worked. So I'll know that it's not all in my head.
That was a lot! Congratulations on finishing today's writeup. May you stay healthy this winter!
--dr. diane holmes
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