- When our body becomes infected with a virus, it isn’t the virus that slows us down, it is the body’s own physiological response to slow you down
- There are a few methods to use to help prevent a cold or flu
- The truth about Vitamin C and colds
Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s girlfriend thinks she caught him picking his nose? Well keep reading, there may be some perks to being a “picker” if you do it right.
You can “catch” a cold or the flu anytime of the year, but it’s easier during the winter months. It’s not because it is cold, it’s because we stop going outside and stay inside where we easily share and spread germs. We also reduce our sunshine intake, so our Vitamin D stores plummet, and Vitamin D is essential to boosting a healthy immune system.
Physiology of Illness
The tiny viruses that cause colds and flus need our cells to reproduce so once inside, a cold virus usually looks for a cell in the nasal cavity to infect, and a flu virus goes for the throat. Much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they pose as protein messengers and our unsuspecting cells take them in. Once inside, they overtake the cell’s machinery and use it to clone other viruses, (kind of like in Star Wars). Thousands of new viruses can be produced from a single cell! Those are then released to infect other cells. The invasion begins, even though you probably won’t realize it for one to three days.
It isn’t the virus that makes you feel awful, it is your body’s response to the virus. Almost immediately, a healthy person’s immune system will spring into action. Natural Killer Cells spray poison on infected cells in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. But if things get out of hand, messages are sent to other parts of the immune system that help is needed and this is when people begin to feel awful. The chemicals used to send those messages also cause the nerves to become super sensitive and that starts the general aches and pains you feel when you’re sick.
In other words, your body wants you to feel bad, so you will slow down. Your body may also give you a fever in an effort to stop the invasion because viruses can’t survive or multiply in higher temperatures. Other symptoms of a cold or flu such as stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and a mild to moderate hacking cough also come because of efforts to fight the virus, not from the virus itself.
How to Prevent a Cold
1. Pick Your Nose, but not in public please. Instead, each morning when you shower, clean it out with water. The mucus in your nose traps viruses and bacteria, but doesn’t necessarily kill them. Clean it out for a fresh start, but avoid picking your nose with your fingers throughout the day as germs can easily enter the nasal cavity that way.
2. Skip the Hand Sanitizer if you can wash instead. If you can’t wash, be sure to use the sanitizer correctly. Sanitizers only work if you cover the entire hand. Most people rub it all over their palms and then quickly cover the backs of their hands. They may completely skip between the fingers. It is also tough to get sanitizer under the nails, especially long ones, where there is usually a plethora of microorganisms.
To make matters worse, some commercial hand sanitizers don’t really work! Marketers may make you believe that they kill all of the germs, but because of regulation loop holes, many do not. See the Article To Sanitize or Not to Sanitize.
Hand sanitizers should also be rubbed on for about the same amount of time as one should wash their hands with soap and water, so why not wash if you can? That way the dead and the almost dead germs are washed down the sink and not sticking to you for the rest of the day. This also reduces the risk of the almost dead bacteria becoming resistant to the sanitizer and morphing into superbugs.
3. Sweat, stress less and snooze! People who exercise, manage their stress and get enough rest not only don’t get sick as often, but they usually don’t feel as bad when they are sick, and they tend to recover faster.
4. Get Some Sun. Getting 15-20 minutes of sunshine a day helps replenish your Vitamin D stores in the most beneficial way. If it is a blizzard outside, you can take Vitamin D3 supplements, or look for a “safe tanning bed” that can help replace the benefits of sunshine without all of the down sides.
WHAT TO TAKE
5. BE VERY CHOOSY about taking cold medication. These medications often relieve symptoms, the same symptoms your body gives you so that you will feel sick and rest! When symptoms are masked, people often think they are feeling better and continue on in their daily routines, compromising their immune system and exposing and infecting others. Also, because they haven’t rested, when the medication wears off, the severity of the infection could be much worse.
6. Don’t just take Vitamin C. Eat foods that have it throughout the day. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it doesn’t stay in your body longer than a few hours. Though studies have not consistently shown that taking Vitamin C every day wards off a cold or even shortens its length or severity, they have shown that Echinacea may cut your risk of getting a cold by more than half and shorten its duration by about 1.4 days. The great news is, if you take Vitamin C and Echinacea together, the risk of catching a cold is reduced by as much as 86 percent!
7. You Can Drink Warm Liquids. There isn’t a lot of research concluding this will prevent colds or the flu, but it may help you feel better if only psychologically. Just avoid drinks that have lots of sugar which may impair the immune system.
Try adding a couple of tablespoons of real lemon juice to a cup of warm water. Add some honey to sweeten it enough so that you will sip it throughout the day. Honey does have some natural antibiotic qualities and lemon is great for your liver, (the body’s big filter). The warm water is always great for hydration.
- “An Invitation to Health” The Brief 2010-2011 Edition by Dianne Hales. Wadsworth Cengage Publishers, pgs 287-289.
- “Access to Health” Green Edition by Rebecca J. Donatelle, Pearson Publishing, pg 525.