Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Photo credit Arlington County

Cold and flu season is in full swing, and hopefully you’ve managed to avoid getting sick. A quick internet search brings up plenty of tips for preventing and treating the common cold.  So what is the best remedy for fighting a cold?  According to Dr. Orli R. Etingin, founder and medical director of the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, the best remedy is effective prevention:

The viruses that usually cause the common cold are spread by touching virus-laden skin or surfaces or by inhaling airborne drops of mucus.

“Current theory is that the cold is more common in winter months because there is less ventilation of common spaces, allowing for increased spread of infection,” Dr. Etingin said. “Holiday airplane travel is an almost certain way to increase one’s risk of a cold.”

If prevention fails, she said, symptoms can be treated. Congestion, low-grade fever and nasal discharge resulting from inflammation of the respiratory tract are most effectively addressed with rest and 60 to 80 ounces of fluids a day.

In addition to getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids, here are a few more common-sense tips for staying well and relieving symptoms:

  • Wash your hands.  Knowing the cold virus is spread by touching infected skin or surfaces, it makes sense that frequent hand washing is an effective preventive measure.  Keeping hands away from your nose and eyes can help too.
  • Use warm steam to ease congestion.  Steam from a humidifier or a hot shower helps keep mucus membranes moist.  You can also add very hot water to a large bowl, place a towel over your head, and carefully inhale the steam to relieve congestion and sinus pressure.
  • Use a neti pot to help flush mucus from your nasal cavity.
  • Boost your immune system by finding ways to alleviate stress and eating foods that help fight inflammation.  Cook with immune-boosting foods such as ginger and garlic.  Supplementing with certain botanicals such as astragalus, Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, and Elder flower can also be helpful.

How do you stay well during cold and flu season?  What’s your best remedy?  Let us know!

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