Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season for Coughs and Colds...

With the arrival of the cold weather we've experienced an influx of people suffering from the common cold. This year, the popular cold to have in Arizona is one that starts with a feeling of stuffiness in the sinus cavities and ears. This quickly progresses into post nasal drip followed by a sore throat and an uncomfortable, hacking cough.

As we have been seeing more and more of this cold at the clinic it seemed appropriate to have a blog posting on the best ways to deal with the common cold. The first thing to remember about the common cold, aka Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), is they are usually caused by a virus. Viruses are different than bacteria, which is why antibiotic therapy often doesn't help to get rid of the symptoms of a cold. Antibiotics work on bacteria- not viruses. It is also important to realize that allergies can sometimes mimic the symptoms of a cold.

Just a few days ago I had a patient who was absolutely sure that she had a cold. She was coughing, her head hurt, and her nose wouldn't stop running. I suggested that it would be a good idea to run a test before starting any treatments. When the results came back at the end of the day, they indicated that she was having a bad allergic reaction, and not suffering from a cold. Once we knew her symptoms were due to allergies, and not a virus, the proper treatment could be given.

Speaking of symptoms, it's important to note that many of the symptoms which make people feel poorly are actually the result of the body's defense mechanisms. For example, inhibiting a fever is thought to counteract the major defense mechanism of the body and prolong the infection. Of course, if a fever reaches a dangerous level, such as 104 degrees or higher, it should be suppressed and a visit to the doctor is recommended.

If you do develop a cold there are several ways that can help speed up recovery:

1. Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking lots of water is important because it inhibits viral infection and it can improve the function of infection fighting cells in the body. Make sure to dilute fruit juices with water, as the sugar in fruit juices can often make the infection worse.

2. Get some rest. Many times the reason that people get sick near the Holidays is because they are stressed out and their immune system suffers. The body heals itself when asleep, so don't forget to take a nap.

3. Avoid those Holiday sweets! Sugar competes with vitamin C for entrance into infection-fighting cells. Decreased vitamin C levels may result in a significant reduction in immune cell function.

4. Vitamin C at a dose of 500-1000mg every two hours has been found to be able to shorten the duration of a cold by as much as a full day. Large doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea, and if this is experienced simply decrease the dosage by half.

5. Zinc lozenges are on of the most popular natural approaches to fighting a cold, and for good reason. Zinc has been shown as a critical nutrient for optimum immune system function, and it also possesses antiviral activity. Lozenges that provide 15-25mg of elemental zinc with glycine as a sweetener can be taken every two waking hours. However, it is inadvisable to continue with this dosage for over a week, as increased zinc levels for an extended period of time can inhibit the immune system.

6. Echinacea is prescribed world wide for treatment of the common cold. It was estimated that German physicians and pharmacists prescribed echinacea for the common cold 2.5 million times in 1994. Echinacea has been shown to cause a significant reduction of cold symptoms. It can be taken as a tea, a tincture, or as a capsule. The best echinacea preparations are made up of both the roots and aerial parts of the plant.

Possibly the best way to fight a cold is not to get one in the first place. This Holiday season make sure to slow down and enjoy the season, your family, and your friends.

Happy Holidays
J. Psenka, NMD

1 comment:

survivor said...

Great info on cold prevention and treatment. Thanks! Any idea how I could find a naturopathic doctor in Michigan or anywhere closer than AZ?