Now that fall is ending in favor of winter, the cold and flu season is also approaching.
Along with colder temperatures, shorter days, and holiday music, your patients may also experience the stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and persistent cough that can often come with a cold or flu.
Unfortunately, these symptoms can quickly put a damper on the holiday plans they might have—particularly if those plans involve travel, as being in close quarters with many other people can make it much easier for cold and flu viruses to spread.
What’s more, studies have shown that people can catch an average of two to four colds per year. Standard cold or flu remedies, such as antibiotics or the corticosteroid prednisone, can have unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea or insomnia.
In some cases, these drugs might even be contraindicated, as with patients who have cataracts, wide-angle glaucoma, or certain immune disorders.
Given all of this, it should be no surprise that this is the time of year when your patients will start to ask more questions about how to boost their immunity to the common cold and flu and what natural remedies they can take if they get hit with one.
Vitamins, supplements, and minerals
Vitamins C and A as well as zinc all help boost the body’s immune system. And a stronger immune system can not only lower the likelihood of contracting a cold or the flu but can also help improve the body’s ability to produce T cells (a type of white blood cell produced by the thalamus gland), which help fight off infections.
Echinacea supplements can also boost the immune system because they contain polysaccharides, which are a type of carbohydrate molecule that can combat viruses.
The body produces excess mucus and phlegm in an effort to flush out irritants due to a cold or the flu. Irrigating out the sinuses and nasal passages can help flush out this collected mucus and phlegm so that your patients can breathe more easily.
Neti pots are available in most health food stores and are a simple way to fully clean out the sinus and nasal passages with warm water and a pinch of salt. This is most effective if done while the patient is in a hot shower or bath, in order to even further loosen up mucus and phlegm.
Sleep helps regulate the hormone cortisol, which is another stimulant for the immune system. Lack of sleep, particularly if it becomes a chronic habit, can not only increase the likelihood of catching a cold or the flu but can also make it linger once a person does become sick.
Adults should aim for anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Try to keep a consistent time for going to bed and waking up, even on weekends, and avoid caffeine after late afternoon.
We all know that the holiday season is often the time of high-fat, high-carb, and sugary snacks that contain little in the way of real nutrients for the body. If the body does not get sufficient nutrients from the diet, it will not have a strong enough immune system to fight off a cold or flu.
Although it may be more of a challenge to add in fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months, doing so will keep the body going strong all through the holiday season and may also help ward off cravings for sugary treats.
Winter can be a wonderful season of gathering together with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a time when your patients may find themselves susceptible to colds or the flu. Help your patients through this holiday season by helping them boost their immune system as much as possible.