Cold or Worse? There Are Natural Answers for the Flu

Cold or Worse? There Are Natural Answers for the Flu

natural answers for the fluThis flu season has been terrible. Practically everyone I know, myself included, has been down with something, whether it’s a cold, some kind of viral infection or the flu itself.

This year’s shots are worthless

I’m not going to jump into the flu vaccine controversy, although I can say I do not get flu shots. This year has shown that flu shots are virtually worthless because of the fast mutating capabilities of the current virus. Sometimes they have a better track record, but a study of Canadians aged 20 to 64 with the flu published in the journal Eurosurveillance, found that the flu vaccine was only 10 percent effective against H3N2 (the main flu subtype going around in the US this season). Researchers say the Canadian results are most likely applicable in the U.S.

Completely unscientifically, I think that’s true. Many friends and family members who have been sick either with severe colds or the flu did get flu shots.

One study I recently saw said that people who had flu shots and got sick actually left more potent viruses around for others to pick up.

Cold or flu?

What’s the difference between a cold and the flu? The CDC says it’s a matter of severity. Both are upper respiratory tract infections often accompanied by head congestion, cough and sore throat. With the flu, you’ve usually got all the crap that goes with a cold plus a fever (over 103 is dangerous for an adult) and muscle aches and you generally feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.

Personal experience: With a cold, you can still be somewhat functional, but the flu puts you flat on your back.

If you have either one, PLEASE stay home and don’t spread the virus to co-workers, friends, family and strangers who can pick it up on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.


I have a longstanding habit of wearing scarves all the time in the winter. Not only are they lovely and fashionable (chuckle), I use them to protect my hands when opening doors and touching other surfaces when I’m out in public. Oh yes, and I launder my scarves frequently.

Speaking of washing, hand washing is your best friend this time of year. Do it early and often. Wash with soap in the hottest water you can get and wash long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself. I’m a bit obsessive about it this time of year. The flu virus can live on your hands for an hour or more. Hand sanitizers are OK, but they shouldn’t take the place of hand washing.

Further speaking of washing, all this is true in spades for kids. They should be washing their hands several times a day. Apply moisturizer a couple of minutes after washing.

Train yourself and your kids not to touch your face. Flu and cold viruses are most commonly transferred from your hands to the mucus membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes. I know, it’s hard. I never realized how often I touch my face until I became hyper aware of it during cold season.


Docs will tell you that hydration and rest are the best ways to treat a cold. That’s true, but there are other natural ways to relieve the symptoms that are likely to lay you low for five days to a week or more.

Elderberry is my favorite. It’s a natural remedy that has been scientifically studied and proven to reduce your suffering by three to four days. It’s available as a delicious syrup or tincture. A couple of teaspoons every four hours is amazingly effective.

I make my own elderberry tincture from the bushes that I planted years ago. There’s something especially comforting to think about healing my loved ones with the tincture of these tiny berries that are usually ready to pop into a vodka or vinegar base in August, if I beat the birds to the harvest.

Other great flu/cold remedies: sage tea or gargle for sore throats, zinc, lozenges, whole food vitamin C (not ascorbic acid!) or better yet, add oranges, lemons, goji berries, bell peppers and other high C foods into your daily smoothie.

Finally, if your fever hits 103 or your mucus is not colorless or if you have any breathing difficulties, get to the doctor or emergency room right away. This flu can be deadly, even in healthy adults, and more so for children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

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