We are beginning to head into cold and flu season again. The days are getting shorter, the mercury is dropping and all around the country, people are breaking out the old oil heater to help take the edge off the nights. Colds and the flu begin to rear their ugly heads around this time of year because the air gets colder and drier, the perfect conditions for the virus to thrive.
Many people mistake the symptoms for the illness. In fact, the mucus, fever, and coughing are all your body’s attempts to expel this foreign invader. The average person will get a cold a couple of times a year, and they usually last about seven to ten days. This figure is vastly inflated if you have small children in daycare, in which case, they seem to be sick more often than not.
Many people are reluctant to use medicine to treat common colds. In some ways, the logic in this decision is good. If you can avoid medical intervention, it is generally a good idea, especially when ramping up to opioids or antibiotics. However, unlike these drugs, cold and flu tablets have very little negative impacts or addictive qualities on your body.
Cold and Flu Tablets
Paracetamol - This is a type of analgesic (don’t let the name fool you; you need to take it orally) which works to relieve pain. It heads straight to your brain and blocks the chemicals that make you feel discomfort. They don’t actually do anything for the site of the inflammation, but they reduce your capacity to feel the pain. To use a simple metaphor, they are the kid running interference to make sure mum doesn’t see the messy bedroom.
Ibuprofen - This is a non steroidal anti inflammatory drug which reduces the pain of a fever. It works to reduce the creation of chemicals called prostaglandins which are the reason you would experience pain and inflammation. To continue the metaphor from earlier, while paracetamol runs interference, Ibuprofen is the kid who hurriedly cleans everything up before mum can see. Aspiring also works in the exact same way.
Happily, these two cold and flu tablets work entirely independently of each other, and so they can be taken concurrently to maximise their effects.
There are a few other things
If you aren’t into cold and flu tablets, there are a number of home remedies that can be used to ward off illness. Of course, these can still be done with the drugs, and from a scientific point of view, using both approaches will always trump one or the other.
- Making sure you stay hydrated - This will help you to flush out the toxins in your body which will help reduce inflammation. It also thins out the mucus that lines your passageways, making it much easier to dislodge. Finally, if you have a cold, it is likely that you have been sweating in response. This causes you to lose a fair bit of water, and staying hydrated makes sure that it is replaced.
- Chill out, relax! - If you are doing strenuous exercise whilst you’re sick, you end up diverting your energy away from fighting the illness. Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, and if you need to pump blood to your muscles, you are taking your troops off the front lines to participate in something much less important. Moreover, when your body is stressed, it produces stress hormones that suppress your immune system.
- Get steamy - THe virus thrives in the cold and dry. What is the opposite? Warm and moist. Getting into a steamy room gives your body every advantage to beat the virus. It also loosens the mucus that lines your passageways making it much easier to dislodge. The heat will also improve your circulation, sending blood to the site of the pain which promotes healing.
- Gargle Salt Water - The salt has antibacterial qualities which means every single gargle is helping to kill the virus. It also reduces nasal congestions and loosens the mucus. Anecdotally, there is something extra refreshing about getting into the ocean whilst unwell. Whilst, you should not over exert yourself, there is something about the sea that seems to flush away all the phlegm and mucus.
- Watch your diet - Your body uses every single thing you eat, for better, or worse. If you have been stacking up on doughnuts and soft drink, this isn’t leaving you with much to work with. Alternatively, a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals will assist your immune system in the fight. Additionally, many fruits and vegetables contain ingredients which act as natural anti-inflammatories. In the long term, a healthy diet will help you avoid nasty things like cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
- Get some honey into you - Manuka honey in particular is scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory qualities, especially useful for healing sore throats.
- Elevate your sleeping position - Have you ever noticed that your cold is generally manageable during the day, but then it comes back with a vengeance just before bed time? There are a few reasons for this. FIrstly, your body temperature drops as the night becomes cooler, and this gives the virus the upper hand. But secondly, when you lie completely horizontally, the phlegm and mucus can run up towards your head from your lungs, creating a log jam and a sleepless night. Instead, consider propping your body upright using some pillows. It will feel a little unusual at first, but you will notice that your coughing is significantly reduced.
At the end of the day, you are entirely at liberty to treat your illness however you please. Unlike some drugs, there is no real reason to avoid Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. They are entirely harmless and it is very difficult to take them incorrectly. Our hot tip is to balance this with the more natural remedies. It can take a seven to ten day cold and make it last just a few days.