Your child has a runny nose, your co-workers are coughing and the guy in the grocery line behind you just sneezed for the second time. It all adds up to one thing – cold and flu season is back. With millions of Canadians infected each year, what’s the best way to deal with cold and flu symptoms? And what are the best ways to avoid catching a cold or the flu in the first place?
What’s the difference between colds and the flu?
While people often confuse the two, colds are generally milder and more common than the flu. The symptoms of a cold typically include sneezing, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and a mild fever. The flu tends to be more severe and sudden in its onset. Influenza type C viruses cause only mild illness similar to a common cold while types A and B share the classic flu symptoms: sudden onset of chills, high fever, headache, muscle ache, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Cold and flu season starts in October and can go as late as April, although it usually peaks around February. Children younger than two are especially vulnerable, as well as seniors, pregnant women and anyone with a chronic medical condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Strategies for staying healthy
While there is no “cure” for a cold or the flu, that doesn’t mean you’re defenceless – natural health products like Umcka or Sambucus can help alleviate the symptoms of cold and flu. Plus, making proactive changes to your lifestyle, behaviour and diet will help you protect against getting sick in the first place.
Let’s start with a few basic stay-healthy strategies:
- Wash your hands: infectious diseases spread through direct contact with people and contaminated surfaces. The more you wash your hands, the less likely you are to get sick.
- Cover your cough: use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your hands.
- Don’t touch your face: germs spread when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice healthy habits: eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly can boost your immune system to better fight off germs.
- Stay home when you are sick: adults can be contagious one day prior to becoming sick and for three to seven days after developing symptoms. Children may be contagious for longer than a week.
Already have a cold or the flu? Consider trying a natural health supplement to help alleviate the symptoms and get you back on your feet sooner. For example:
- Nature’s Way Umcka Cold Care: contains the clinically studied extract Eps7630, derived from a traditional medicinal plant grown in South Africa. Today, it is the best researched cold and cough phytomedicine worldwide with proven efficacy and safety in more than 25 clinical trials involving thousands of patients (including children). Umcka is clinically proven to relieve symptoms and help reduce the duration of the common cold, bronchitis, laryngitis and more – available in great tasting drops, chewable tablets and syrup. That’s right – it can actually help shorten your cold!
- Nature’s Way Sambucus: a natural elderberry syrup designed to relieve symptoms of both cold and flu. Sambucus is a pure, effective and great-tasting elderberry extract derived from 100% hand-picked berries from Austria. Sambucus contains standardized flavonoids proven to be bioavailable and active within the body for optimal effectiveness. Elderberry has been traditionally used in herbal medicine to help relieve symptoms associated with the common cold and the flu.
While there’s no cure for colds or the flu, combining an “ounce of prevention” with natural health supplements to alleviate cold and flu symptoms will help protect you and your family. Back to school is busy enough without having to deal with sneezing and sniffles!
 William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.