A new year is beginning. For me, it means a time of reflection and goal setting. My desires for this new year are to be content with what I have created in my life, plus feel passion for what I’m creating. I’m excited for the possibilities: I can consistently feel good. It’s what we all want. And I want to be conscious: conscious about my thoughts, my words, my relationships, my choice of foods and exercise, and my contribution to the world around me and the needs of others. Why? It’s because this feels good to me and gives me meaning. Thank you for being a conscious creator of needed change for good: I join hands with you in all that makes life wonderful and great!
I’ll continue my discussion from a previous article on the immune system and winter virus infections. I’ll also discuss what you can do to best stop the symptoms of an oncoming winter cold.
It’s true that during the winter, the influenza virus is a major concern for the very old, weak or young. However, it’s the cold viruses that affect all of us in some way. On average, adults contract two to three colds a year, but children contract from six to 12 colds in that timeframe. There is no known cure for the common cold. However, there is much you can do to keep your immune system strong in order to prevent colds and to boost your immune system to curtail a cold’s effects if you get sick.
Does cold weather really make viruses stronger, or does cold weather weaken your immune system? It’s known that in temperate regions like the United States, colds hit predictably during cooler winter months. In the colder Northern latitudes, influenza viruses circulate primarily from November to March; correspondingly, in the Southern Hemisphere influenza viruses circulate primarily from May to September (their winter).  This could be in part due to close proximity of individuals spending more time together indoors. It also is likely due to the normal reaction of your nose in colder weather, increasing secretions and fluid for greater susceptibility to viral attachment to you. Dryer air allows for viral droplets to disperse farther and linger in the air longer.
To further understand why this is, researchers in 2007 studied viral shedding in cold and warm conditions among guinea pigs and discovered that viral transmission greatly favors cold and dry conditions, and that the cold weather does not impair immune response.  Rather, the virus is able to spread easier in the cold and dry conditions compared to the warm and humid conditions.
Did you know that there are more than 200 common cold viruses that cause the typical symptoms of fever, generalized fatigue and sore throat, followed by stuffy/runny nose and that miserable lingering cough? These viruses are transmitted via airborne droplets (e.g., sneezing) and by direct contact with infected secretions (e.g., your runny nose). Also, be careful of any object that has been touched recently (within several hours) by someone who is in the first three days of getting a cold. Simply touching your eyes or nose with fingers that have picked up a virus can give the bug a nice chance to multiply inside you.
There is much more involved in viral transmission than simply cold weather. We know that viral infections can be serious problems in hot and humid areas of the world, too.
Over the years, you will likely have been exposed to many common cold viruses. This gives your immune system an edge: It can remember and fight these when they attempt to attack you. How sick you get depends on your immune system strength. Colds that could last seven to 10 days are reduced to only barely detectable symptoms and last only one or two days if you are keeping your immune system strong. Consider the cleanliness of your environment, too (are you good at washing your hands often?), as well as your ability to withstand infection. In a previous article I mentioned that nutrient-rich foods and physical fitness build immune system strength, which translates into fewer colds. Let’s further consider how else you can withstand colds.
Remedies That Work To Fight The Cold Or Simply Make You Feel Better
You can fight a cold or flu with the following:
- Extra water and certain other fluids: Drink fresh juices (not bottled because they contain too much sugar, which suppresses your immune system ); green tea or fruit teas; clear soup broth; fresh lime/lemon water (add stevia if you want for flavor). Avoid dairy milk, sodas and alcoholic beverages.
- Extra sleep: Use caution to give yourself extra sleep and low-stress activities.
- Zinc: This supplement that has been studied and shown to significantly benefit you if it is taken correctly. A 2010 Cochrane review  of 15 randomized controlled trials from 1966 to June 2010 (1,360 generally healthy participants from all age groups) was done. They compared zinc with placebo (no zinc) and found that taking zinc lozenges or zinc syrup cut cold symptom duration and severity almost in half when taken within 24 hours of symptom onset. Also, those who took zinc consistently were less likely to have cold symptoms persist beyond seven days of treatment.
- Vitamin C at a high dose: Take 10,000 mg daily (divided into three doses to prevent diarrhea, but it is otherwise completely safe). Vitamin C in lower doses or taken consistently long term in high doses does not have this effect.
- Steam: Sauna is great but not often practical. Steam is better with aromatic essential oils that are healing: Use an aroma lamp, humidifier or a spray bottle with lavender (can be sedating), eucalyptus, camphor, rosemary, pine or sage.
- Good mood: Good feelings enhance your immune system. Stress does the opposite. This is why keeping peace and contentment in your love relationship is so critical to good health.
Less proven to benefit are the use of nasal irrigation to relieve congestion, honey consumption, echinacea and garlic.
Fighting The Bug
There are other remedies that help you feel better while the virus is running its course:
- Sore throat relief: Salt water gargle using 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in a cup of warm water; ibuprofen (e. g., over-the-counter Motrin or Advil) 400 mg to 800 mg every six hours for the first two days especially to help you sleep.
- Saline drops or sprays
- Cough syrup: Delsym® (pure dextromethorphan), which is over-the-counter and is quite safe at even double or triple the standard dose if needed to get through the night or day. (It’s non-sedating.)
- Antihistamines: Can help dry up runny nose, reduce itch and dry up a cough; but be careful it doesn’t “lock in” the cough secretions you want to cough up and spit out.
To feeling good continuously and to great happiness and health for 2013,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
 Simonsen L (1999) The global impact of influenza on morbidity and mortality. Vaccine 17: S3–S10.
 Lowen AC, Mubareka S, Steel J, Palese P (2007) Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and Temperature. PLoS Pathog 3(10): e151. Find this entire study online at: