The common cold affects the upper respiratory tract and is usually the most common infection a person encounters in their lifetime. It is estimated that there are over 220 different viruses that cause the common cold. Infection occurs through the airborne route, and it usually takes one to three days to feel the first symptoms. The duration of a cold is usually seven days, but in some cases can last for several weeks. Usually the same virus does not infect the same person twice. Although there is no cure for the common cold, there are ways to prevent infection and relieve symptoms.
More dangerous than the common cold is the influenza virus, also known as the flu. The flu affects millions of people around the world each year. This viral illness can lead to severe complications and even death in people at higher risk (diabetics, people with lung disease, the elderly, and cancer patients). Complications usually result from a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia, which can occur due to a weakened immune system.
Prevent catching colds and flu
Prevention really is the best medicine for colds and flu. There are a number of effective ways to maintain optimal immune health so you can resist infections:
- Diet – Stick to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. They are excellent sources of antioxidants that protect the body and prepare the immune system to fight viruses and bacteria.
- Hand washing – Frequent hand washing with antibacterial soap and warm water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of viral illness. You should also avoid rubbing your eyes and nose with your hands. You can also use a quality hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with sick people – if possible, avoid communication with sick people. If you are forced to interact with sick people, provide enough clean air in the room to reduce the number of germs in the air.
- Cough into your elbow – when you are sick, cough into your sleeve or elbow instead of coughing and sneezing into your arm. Remind others who are sick in your presence to do the same.
- Get enough sleep – Sufficient sleep is necessary to keep your immune system strong. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases the risk of contracting viral infections.
Natural approaches to treating colds and flu
There are many natural approaches that can help you deal effectively with cold and flu symptoms. What they are is yet to be seen.
Zinc is a mineral that can contribute to the prevention of the common cold. Numerous studies highlight the benefits of zinc in dealing with viral infections. A scientific study published in 2016 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that patients with the common cold should be encouraged to take zinc sucking tablets as a method of treating cold symptoms. To get the most health benefits, it is recommended to start taking zinc sucking tablets as soon as you have been in contact with a cold sufferer. This important mineral supplement should be part of your first aid kit so that you can react in time when you feel the first symptoms of a viral infection. The recommended dose of zinc sucking tablets is usually 30 mg or as directed on the package..
Vitamin C, or more commonly known as ascorbic acid, has been recommended for many years as a means of preventing the common cold. This vitamin can reduce the risk of contracting a cold and also reduce the duration of symptoms. Some scientific studies have shown that people who are under “physical or mental stress,” such as intense physical activity or psychological strain, may derive more benefits from vitamin C in preventing colds. The recommended dose of vitamin C usually ranges from 500 mg to 2000 mg daily.
Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is vital for immune health and fighting infections. Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels, which are often seen during the winter months, can increase the risk of catching a cold or flu. To maintain healthy vitamin D levels throughout the year, it is important to optimize your intake of this vitamin. Sunlight is the source of vitamin D, which is produced in the skin after exposure to UVB rays.
The recommended dose of vitamin D usually ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 IU (international units) daily, but the exact dose may depend on each person’s individual needs. Vitamin D plays a key role in supporting the immune system and effectively preventing infections, so maintaining optimal levels of this vitamin is essential to your health throughout the year.
Probiotics are an effective way to prevent respiratory infections and relieve symptoms in chronic respiratory diseases. Clinical studies have found that people who take probiotics are less susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections. The health of the gut microbiome plays an important role in maintaining immune defenses.
Lactoferrin is a protein that has both antibacterial and antifungal properties. This protein is commonly found in sinus tissue and can be helpful for people who frequently suffer from upper respiratory tract infections. Lactoferrin can help fight bacteria and fungal infections in the sinuses. Combining lactoferrin with probiotics and other appropriate supplements can have a beneficial effect on the immune system and help it fight infections and inflammation.
Coughing is a common symptom of upper respiratory tract infections. Honey is a popular cough remedy. A 2017 study showed that honey improves daytime and nighttime coughing in children with colds. For patients aged 1 to 18 years, honey consumption can reduce the frequency and severity of coughs, as well as improve sleep.
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