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Tips for fighting colds and flus

Published:Tuesday | August 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Every year, lots of people come down with flus and colds. The term 'flu' is an abbreviation for a respiratory tract infection from the influenza family of viruses.

It affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi, and occasionally spreads to the lungs.

Flus are characterised by sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache and severe malaise, non-productive cough, sore throat and nasal congestion.

Influenza tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics as the virus is transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze.

Most infected people recover within one to two weeks without requiring medical treatment. However, in the very young, the elderly, and those with serious medical conditions, the flu can lead to complications like pneumonia and even death.

The 'common cold' is the commonest infection in humans caused by another type of virus, the rhinovirus and occurs throughout the year. It infects the upper respiratory tract, the nasal passages, the sinuses and the throat, and usually clears up within four to seven days. The flu is a more severe and debilitating infection than the common cold and is more likely to spread to the lower respiratory tract. Like the flu, it can be spread by droplet infection as well as by hand to face transmission.

Although we are all frequently exposed to these viruses, infections are most common during the colder months, and at the times when our immune system is weak. Frequent attacks of flu or cold infections suggest a poorly functioning immune system.

Despite the enthusiastic marketing of flu shots by their manufacturers as the way to avoid the flu, maintaining a healthy immune system is the healthiest way to protect yourself against the virus. Regular hand washing has also been shown to significantly lower the infection rate.

With a healthy functioning immune system, a cold should not last longer than three to four days or a flu more than seven. But what do you do if you get infected? There are natural ways to assist the body to recover, rather than suppressing the symptoms as most conventional cold and flu medications are designed to do. Here are five tips:


The value of sleep and rest during an infection cannot be over emphasised. At the first sign of a cold or flu, decrease your activities and rest as much as possible. Avoid stress. During deep sleep, the body releases powerful immune-enhancing substances which increases your healing capacity. Relaxation and deep breathing exercises are very useful.


When the membranes of the respiratory tract are dehydrated, cold and flu viruses have an ideal environment to grow. Moist, well-hydrated mucus membranes decrease your risk of these viral infections.

Your choice of liquid is important. Research has shown that the sugar in sweet drinks reduces the ability of the white blood cells to kill germs. Water, vegetable juices, herbal teas, coconut water and vegetable broths are ideal, and fruit juices should be greatly diluted.


Vitamin C in a dosage of six grams daily, has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of a cold by 20 per cent. A flu infection will need even higher dosages. It should be taken in divided dosages, and the daily dose gradually increased to the point where you begin to have loose stools. This indicates that you have passed your optimal dosage and you should then cut back to a level where bowel activity returns to normal. With severe viral infections, I use vitamin C in much higher dosages by an intravenous drip.

The Chinese herb, Schizandra, and the local herb, Rosemary are particularly useful antioxidants that boost the immune system to fight off the virus. They are available as tablets and should be taken at the first sign of a cold or flu, as well as for prevention.


This herb is famous as an antibiotic and antiviral agent. Research indicates that 900 milligrams of Echinacea root daily reduces significantly the symptoms of the common cold. In Europe, doctors write millions of prescriptions for Echinacea for the common cold and flu infections. It is available as tablets, tinctures and teas.


Many studies have demonstrated that zinc lozenges greatly reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. They should be sucked like sweets every two to four hours. Adding the amino acid glycine to zinc lozenges increases their effectiveness. A combination of Echinacea, zinc and vitamin C is also available as effervescent tablets.

There you have it, five simple, safe, natural interventions that can reduce the misery of the common cold and the severity of the flu. But, remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Try to prevent the infection by keeping your immune system strong. A word of caution: if high fever, severe cough with coloured sputum, severe headache and prostration persists, it is important to seek medical attention as this may indicate the development of complications.

You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at vendryes@mac.com, or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m.