Natural Remedies to Fight A Cold Or The Flu

John Gray

It feels like the flu but it may only be a cold. It's hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. That's because the two can share a number of the same symptoms, including a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and cough.

Where they differ is in severity. Colds tend to be more mild and most people can still function with a cold. When you have a high fever of 101 degrees or more, your whole body aches, and you can't even get off the couch because you're so miserable, that's probably the flu.

The influenza virus causes the flu, and since just a few variants of the virus exist, it's become relatively easy to recognize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu activity in the USA can begin as early as October and last as late as May, but it usually peaks in January or February. About 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu. 

The flu can resemble a cold because you might have a cough, or a runny nose, but the flu usually has less upper respiratory symptoms than a cold. However, complications due to the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, a weakened heart muscle, and even the death of (otherwise healthy) people.

Cold's can be trickier. Colds tend to have a more gradual onset, while the flu usually comes on more suddenly.

There are about 1 billion cases of the common cold every year around the world. The rhinovirus is often responsible for a cold, but more than 200 other viruses can trigger the common cold. The symptoms are predominantly above the neck, like a runny nose, cough, watery eyes, sore throat, congestion, and sneezing. You may also feel achy or have a fever, but these will be much less severe than with the flu.

Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.The common cold and flu are caused by viruses, so neither respond to antibiotics. But many people think otherwise. In a national survey of consumers by the non-profit National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, 44% of respondents incorrectly thought antibiotics could fight the flu and 48% mistakenly believed that flu vaccines would "treat" influenza. 

It's true that some patients may demand antibiotics from their doctors because they believe it’s going to resolve their symptoms. However a growing problem is doctors continue to unnecessarily prescribe antibiotics for a cold or the flu. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that many doctors still prescribe antibiotics for conditions that don’t warrant them. Antibiotics may be needed if complications develop or a bacterial infection develops, but they should always be the last choice. 

Over-the-counter medications are not a better choice either. A number of commonly used over-the-counter medications cause a rebound effect in people if they're overused. This causes the symptoms they were originally trying to treat to return, sometimes even worse.

Over 600 hundred medicines contain the active ingredient acetaminophen. Acetaminophen inhibits the natural production of glutathione, which is produced by your liver to protect the brain. When acetaminphen is used to suppress fevers, it suppresses your brain’s natural ability to defend and heal itself. Fever is your body's way of fighting off the infection. A fever is the original natural remedy because the rise in temperature makes your body inhospitable for germs. A 2014 study in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that children whose mothers took acetaminophen while pregnant had a 40% higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and other cognitive problems.

There are preventative actions you can do to stop the spread of germs. Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands with soap and water often will help you and your loved ones stay healthy through the cold and flu season.

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