Colds and Influenza

The Common Cold

This is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. We are all exposed to these viruses at all times so it appears that the reason we get colds is due to a lowering of the body’s resistance. Thus prevention is the best cure. Note that because a cold is caused by a virus, orthodox antibiotics are virtually useless except that they may act to inhibit the development of opportunistic bacterial infections.

The major symptoms of the common cold are:

  • Nasal congestion with watering eyes and sneezing
  • Dry, sore throat
  • Swollen cervical lymph nodes
  • Slightly raised temperature

The common cold is differentiated from the virally caused influenza mainly by the severity of symptoms. Influenza tends to occur in epidemics and the sufferer feels really ill with a high fever and aching bones. Most of the treatment protocol for the common cold would also be effective in treating influenza, with some modifications depending on the individual circumstances (see later).

In most people a cold will last 5 – 7 days. With the use of natural remedies you may be able to reduce this to 2 or 3 days but the symptoms may actually get worse as the body’s immune system is stimulated to fight off the infection.

General therapeutics

Sleep and rest

The immune system functions optimally when the body is under parasympathetic control. This occurs when we are sleeping, meditating or relaxing. Thus quiet and rest are very important when treating a cold.

Liquids

During a cold the mucus membranes of the upper respiratory tract tend to get dry which further irritates them, as well as providing a more hospitable environment for viruses. Drinking lots of fluids rehydrates the membranes as well as reducing the solute concentration of the blood which enhances leucocyte function.

Sugar

This acts to impair immune function, probably by inhibiting uptake of vitamin C into the leucocytes. Sugar of all sources (natural as well as refined) should be avoided while suffering from a cold, or indeed by anyone with diminished immune function. Note that this also includes fruit sugars in the form of dried fruit or juice, although fresh fruit is fine because of the high water content.

Specific treatments

Humidifier

By moistening the air the mucus membranes will be aided and breathing will become easier. It is beneficial to add essential oils to the humidifier ( eg. Eucalyptus, Salvia, Thymus, Rosmarinus). If you don’t have an humidifier then do steam inhalations with oils and boiling water in a bowl.

Classic cold formula

To be commenced as soon as the first symptom appears. Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Sambucus niger (Elderflower) and Mentha piperita (Peppermint) equal parts in a hot infusion,combines well with lemon and honey.

Sore Throat

Gargle with Salvia off. (Sage), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme), Rosmarinus off. (Rosemary), Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) and Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal). Either an infusion or tinctures diluted 1:5.

Excessive mucus (head cold)

Use anticatarrhals eg. Euphrasia spp., Salvia off. (Sage), Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal) and Solidago virgaurea (Goldenrod)Steam inhalations with essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Thyme, Sage and Peppermint.

Swollen lymph glands:

Galium aparine (Cleavers) up to 1 pt. (500 mL) of cold infusion per day.

Aching bones

Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset) and Sambucus niger (Elderflower)

Pyrexia (fever)

Diaphoretics eg. Nepeta cataria (Catnip), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Sambucus niger (Elderflower) and Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset).

For recuperation and convalescence

Cinnamonum zeylanicum (Cinnamon), Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), Uncaria tomentosa (Cats claw).

Immuno-stimulants

Echinacea spp. (Echinacea), Usnea spp. (Usnea), Lomatium dissectum (Biscuit root), Ligusticum porterii (Osha), Baptisia tinctoria (Wild indigo).

Nutritional support

Vitamin C 500 mg. every hour to bowel tolerance.
Bioflavonoids 1000 mg. daily.
Vitamin A 25,000 iu. daily or beta carotene 200,000 iu. daily.
Zinc lozenges 23 mg. every 2 hours for a week.

INFLUENZA

This refers to an acute viral respiratory infection.It tends to occur more in winter and the type A influenza virus may cause epidemics of illness. About every 15 years there is a pandemic of influenza as a totally new strain of virus occurs. There is typically an incubation period of about 48 hours then the illness presents as headache, fever, malaise, myalgia, sore throat, cough and a hyperemic oropharynx with no exudate.

The WBC count may be normal or even low. If it is raised then there is probably a secondary bacterial infection.

Possible complications of influenza include pneumonia, hemorrhagic bronchitis or encephalitis. It may occasionally be fatal in children, the elderly, the immuno-compromised or in people with chronic lung disease or heart valve dysfunctions.

Before commencing treatment, influenza needs to be differentiated from the common cold, mononucleosis, strep. throat, bronchitis and viral pneumonia.

The treatment plan will basically follow that of the common cold although careful monitoring needs to occur to ensure that the disease does not progress into anything more serious. In people at risk it may be wise to enlist the support of a medical doctor to permit careful monitoring of the situation.

The Treatment of Fevers

The normal body temperature is 370 C. or 98.60 F. This will fluctuate marginally throughout the day, being half a degree or so lower in the early morning and half a degree or so higher after exertion or in very hot climates. Mostly, though, the body temperature is relatively stable at the optimum for healthy metabolic processes.

Hypothermia (lowered body temperature) is rare except in cases of severe malnutrition or exposure. It should be treated conservatively: wrap the person in a warm blanket, apply a heat pad or hot water bottle to the feet and give nothing orally until they are fully conscious and breathing normally. Rescue Remedy may be used to moisten the lips and drops may be given orally once the person is fully conscious.

Pyrexia or Fever is defined as a body temperature at least one degree above the norm. If the temperature rises above 400 C. or 1040 F. then there is a danger that fits, convulsions and even brain damage may occur. Normally a temperature should not be artificially lowered but if it is approaching these critical levels then measures may be taken to reduce it. These would include cool sponging of the body, one limb at a time to avoid the person become suddenly chilled. Cold cloths on the forehead and ice cubes in a cloth in the mouth can also help. Do not give Aspirin to reduce a fever unless it is as a last resort. This method is very un-natural and acts by interfering with prostaglandin function which disrupts other body processes.

Types of Fever and Some of Their Causes

Acute:

A sudden sharp rise in temperature of relatively short duration (hours rather than days). May be caused by allergy, infected injury (mild septicaemia) or infection by common viruses eg. influenza, measles, chickenpox.

Chronic:

A sustained high temperature, may be caused by sepsis eg. in appendix, a tooth, tonsils, uterus etc. or to TB, liver disease or cancer.

Remittent:

Wide fluctuations above the norm. May be caused by blood poisoning, sepsis, typhoid, empyema, malaria.

Hectic:

An exaggeration of the above, due to more severe forms of the same causes.

Intermittent:

Repeated slightly raised temperature with periods of normality. This is characteristic of children during times of emotional or psychological stress. Usually there are no other physical symptoms.

A fever may be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’. Generally speaking a dry fever is more worrisome because if there is no sweating then the body just keeps getting hotter and hotter and can more easily reach critical temperatures than if there is sweating which actually cools the body as it evaporates. If a person is suffering from a dry fever, or a lingering wet fever which is not quite hot enough to burn off the invading organisms, then you can encourage the process with a sweat bath. This is the modern equivalent of the Native sweat lodge. It can actually be done effectively in a sauna but if you don’t have access to one then you can also do it at home.

  • Prepare a deep hot bath 102 – 1040 F., a basin of ice water, and a bottle of room temperature drinking water.
  • Submerge yourself in the bath for as long as you can tolerate it. Keep as much as possible of your body under the water and be sure to keep the water temperature high.
  • Wring out a washcloth in the cold water and apply it over the forehead. Repeat frequently. This will help you avoid a headache and tolerate the bath for longer.
  • Drink the room temperature water as often as needed.
  • When you get out of the bath rinse off with cool water, wrap up warmly and go to bed.

Cautions

  • Do not do this treatment if you have high or very low blood pressure.
  • It is best to do this when there is someone else in the house and not to lock the bathroom door, just in case you get too dizzy or even pass out.
  • Do not stand up quickly from the bath. Stand up slowly and keep your head down until any dizziness wears off. If you feel nauseated during the treatment then add 50% Gatorade to your drinking water.

Watch for signs of hyperventilation – numbness and tingling around the mouth or in the hands and feet. If necessary reduce the bath temperature, breathe from the abdomen not the chest, or breathe into a paper bag until the tingling passes.

General treatment of fevers indicates a need for reduced food intake and avoidance of all heavy proteins (meat and dairy) as well as all refined carbohydrates and fried foods. Plenty of fluids are required and juice fasting may be beneficial.

Pyrexia of Unknown Origin (PUO)

This refers to an elevated temperature of > 38.30C for longer than 2 weeks whe the primary cause has not been identified. As well as the fever, it usually presents with malaise and lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss and the signs and symptoms of the underlying unidentified cause.

In children about 50% of cases are found to be due to viral or bacterial infection (eg. endocarditis or infectious mononucleosis). Another 20% are due to collagen inflammations such as arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. Neoplasms (cancers) account for another 10% and the remaining 20% are due to miscellaneous causes or are never actually identified.

In adults collagen disease and neoplasms account for most cases, while about 10% are never identified

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