Dr. Vicki: Cold and flu season is here: what you can do about it

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Victoria Rhoades ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing at 16840 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park, WA; (206) 295-1211. She will be contributing periodic articles to the ShorelineAreaNews.

Cold and flu season is here, once again. It’s always easier to prevent the onset, than it is to treat something that is settled into our sinuses, throats, or lungs. Prevention can be easy, and consist of simple, commonsense steps.

1.  Stay well rested: nothing pumps up the immune system like a good eight hour sleep – this gives our bodies a chance to stay healthy, to heal from minor insults (like a good workout, or a minor injury like a twisted ankle).  Trouble sleeping? Check out two things: your bedtime. make it consistent, and eight hours before the alarm goes off.  Your bedroom: make it a place of rest – calm, quiet, and block lights from shining in the windows.

2. Stay well hydrated: eight glasses of plain water a day - that's two, liter-sized bottles. If this gets boring, try herbal tea, or add fruit slices to your water. A good brothy soup can be helpful, too – or try a miso broth (one tablespoon miso paste to one cup hot water, add dried kitchen herbs or chopped garlic if desired). 

Alternatively, you can get a box of chicken or veggie broth and heat it up with chopped herbs or garlic (and it’s available in low-sodium forms if you have low-sodium health needs). I have a great recipe for homemade broth, if you want it, please call.

3. Eat well: You know in general what this means: avoid the sugary temptations, and reach for an apple or orange instead. Depending on your health, this piece of advice will vary somewhat. If you have doctor’s advice on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, or fats – follow that advice first. But pick the healthiest options possible to keep your immune system running at its best. You would be amazed at how helpful this can be.

4. Gargle with salt water: ½ teaspoon salt to one cup warm water. Gargle at least twice a day. This will help to keep your throat clear of mucus, which can be a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. If you have a neti pot, you can rinse your sinuses as well with this formula.

5. Acidophilus: it’s true, a daily dose of acidophilus keeps the gut healthier, which leaves more available energy for your immune system to fight off colds and flus. Again, if you’ve been told to avoid these products by a physician, follow that advice first.

6. Hand washing! Let’s not forget handwashing as an easy preventative. I’m not a fan of the antibacterial hand gels, but good, old-fashioned handwashing with soap and water, followed by a thorough drying (towels or air jets), cuts down on exposure by keeping germs on hands to a minimum. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, and always before eating. And avoid touching your nose and mouth – use a tissue if you have to sneeze or cough.

In general, I don’t recommend herbs like Echinacea as preventatives, as your system will lose the ability to respond to them if you take them long-term. There are more simple steps to take if you do get sick, but hopefully, these steps keep your immune system strong, and reduce your exposure. 

Call a physician for an appointment if you run a fever, have night sweats, can’t sleep, have joint/muscle pains, develop a deep cough, or your nose or a cough produces colored mucus . My rule of thumb on calling a doctor is, if it’s keeping someone awake at night, they should make an appointment. Good luck to you all!


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