Hi Everyone and welcome to the first post in the
Herbal Cold Care Series!
Yep, it’s that time….with the changing weather upon us, so is another round of the cold and flu season.
There is SO much information out there on the cold and flu, I wanted to consolidate and break down all the information I have learnt over the years, what has worked for me and my clients, and make it easier to understand the ever evolving health considerations around the cold and flu and what YOU can do at home to prevent and support yourself before, during and after sickness.
In this series:
Introduction (This article)
What to do at the first sign of a cold and flu
Fever, cough + congestion
In this article we will look at:
The difference between a cold and flu (influenza)
Why this distinction is important
Home options for prevention and treatment
When it’s time to see a doctor
Although both the cold and flu are both respiratory infections caused by viruses, it’s important to know the difference between them so you know how to treat and monitor them appropriately.
The Common Cold
The common cold, is an upper respiratory (nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx or voice box) infection.
The common pathogen that infects us is usually called the Rhinovirus but there are more than 100 possible causative organisms making it difficult for us to build immunity.
The Flu (Influenza)
The influenza virus, particularly type A, is difficult to control because it frequently mutates leading to antigen variations which limits us in developing long term immunity.
Antigens in our body produce something called antibodies which are proteins that used by our immune system to fight off pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
The influenza virus can survive at room temperature for as long as 2 weeks and can only be destroyed by heat (this is why we develop a fever, our body is trying to get rid of the virus) and some disinfectants like detergent or ethanol.
Influenza commonly effects the upper respiratory (nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx or voice box) and the lower respiratory (trachea, bronchi, lungs) systems.
As you can see, there is some overlap between the two infections but there are some notable difference such as severity, susceptibility, symptoms and duration. These are important distinctions because it will influence what herbs you use, how you track your recovery and when you should go to the doctor.
A cold could be a milder respiratory illness lasting for a few days but still have the potential to develop secondary infection, while the flu could cause more severe symptoms, can last for several weeks and can result in serious secondary health problems such as pneumonia, lead to hospitalization and in some cases death if left untreated.
Although uncomfortable, the symptoms you experience when you have a cold or flu are signs that your immune system is working and also signs to determine intervention.
Over the counter medications (OTCs) and pharmaceuticals suppress the symptoms but also supress immune system function, so these are not necessarily ideal.
Herbs, however, are used to support the immune system thus acting as a preventative and/or to shorten the duration of infection, ease symptoms and help with meaningful recovery.
So what can you do at home?
Prevention is key!
Yes, wash those hands but the fact is that there are pathogens all around us that washing alone is just not enough in the cold and flu season, so it’s best to boost and strengthen your immune system!
Our Immune System Health Depends on Several Body Systems:
Other key prevention actions to boosting your immune system:
Improving Gut Health (I mention this again because it's super important!)
Self-care / Reducing Stress: Your favourite things to do that uplift your mood
Get Outside! For example, forest bathing, hiking, walking, biking, etc.
Herbal + Nutritional Support for the Immune System:
Immunomodulator: Nourishing herbs that can be used over a long period of time to help support health + strength of immune system.
Spice Rack Herbalism: You have more medicine in your spice rack than you probably know! Lots of spices we use for cooking are actually great for improving digestion, antimicrobial, and increasing circulation.
Vitamins + Nutrients: Each of the vitamins listed below will help your body get through a cold or flu by regulating inflammatory response, helping your body to product antibodies to fight the infection, support lymphocytes, digestion, nutrient absorption, and so much more!
**Note: Dosing will not be discussed in detail in this article as every person has different requirements, especially when dosing children. Dosing will be discussed in a future article. Please make sure that if you use any of this information that it is your responsibility and good practice to identify any sensitivities, contraindications, cautions and dosage for your own individual needs**
When to see a Doctor:
It’s important that you monitor your symptoms and recovery to know when it’s time to seek a higher level of medical intervention.
Be wise and be informed when it comes to self-diagnosing and monitoring the progression of your illness. If you feel like you should go to the doctor, go!
Here is a list of instances of when you should go see a doctor. This list is not all inclusive but gives you a good idea of when you should see a doctor.
Persistent fever or sore throat for more that 3-5 days with no improvement
Forceful or persistent vomiting
Visual disturbance (Blurred or loss of vision, hallucination)
Severe facial pain or lock jaw
Painful or difficulty breathing
Fluid drainage from the ear
Severe and /or unresolving headache
Dehydration or unwillingness to consume fluids
Severe confusion or unresponsiveness
Pre-existing health complications
Any signs of illness/infection in children under 1 year
Signs of serious illness or secondary infection: such as pharyngitis, laryngitis, strep throat, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis, etc.
No improvement within a reasonable time span
And that's a wrap for the first article in the Herbal Cold Care Series, short and sweet right?!
Next article we will look at prevention.
this recipe for Fire Cider which has been used for centuries in preventing sickness and promoting overall health wellness. Prevention is a main key to health, its an important tool we can use to keep our body operating at its full potential and to keep those bugs at bay. Until the next article, where we will dive deeper into prevention, what that means and the recipes you can use, I encourage you to check out
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.