The sick are the greatest danger for the healthy. For strong people disaster does not come from the strongest, but from the weakest. Are we aware of that? – Friedrich Nietzsche
I arrived at work today, made myself my usual cup of rooibos tea and started skimming through the Business Day with one ear listening to Summit TV and one eye scanning the news headlines on Twitter. Suddenly, my throat was on fire and it felt like my clothes had turned thermal on me. The common cold has descended on me, for the third time this winter and it is not even July yet! Since I had my tonsils removed when I was eleven years old there is not a single bug or virus that can come within a 10km radius of my immune system (or lack thereof) without scaring my white blood cells into oblivion. Instead of engulfing and destroying the bacteria like brave soldiers should, my white blood cells cower in the trenches and allow the infection-causing virus or bacteria to set up residence. This is not no-mans land blood cells – fight fight fight! Instead they then go on to play host as if they want to win an award from Martha Stewart!
Everyone knows the only way to effectively manage a cold is to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and supplement on vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately the first part is not very realistic for many people. I had far too much to get done at work and my ma never kept us away from school when we were sick (unless we honestly could not move); throughout my thirteen years of schooling I think I may have been absent for a total of four days? I even went to school the day after my above-mentioned tonsil operation as we had a History test the next Thursday and could not miss the class in preparation for it. I guess this sense of persistence has stuck with me.
Studies across the world indicate that short-term absenteeism is spiralling out of control – the last official figures I could find for South Africa were from 2007 and show that the cost to the economy is in excess of R 2 billion per annum with 40% of this sick leave being due to respiratory illnesses and 14% due to digestive ailments. Figures for the US from 2003 state that the cost of the common cold to the economy was in excess of $40 billion each year. Are we adding to this number by ‘diligently’ staying at work and infecting those around us or should we take a day or two off to recover fully and then return, thereby alleviating fewer people from becoming sick and potentially less days of short-term absenteeism?
It is also important to understand the difference between a cold and the flu as a flu mimics the symptoms of a cold but can lead to certain life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. A cold starts slowly, the first symptom is usually a sore throat followed by sneezing and a runny nose two or three days later. This is usually accompanied by aching muscles and a slight fever. With flu the symptoms are more severe, your fever will be higher and your aching body worse. After a cold you might feel weak for a few days, after the flu you will probably be out of action for some time longer, possibly even a few weeks.
If like me, you are often burdened by these symptoms and do not want to take antibiotics every time here are a few natural remedies you can follow:
- Stay in bed for a few days if possible. Our immune systems are stressed because of our busy lifestyles and do not have the energy to fight off these foreign bodies. Rest and rejuvenate.
- Do not exercise, it places unnecessary strain on your heart and lungs.
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water, fruit juice and rooibos tea Even though you have no appetite try to eat soup.
- I have a humidifier with a tray on top in which I put some aromatherapy oils. This puts moisture into the air which helps loosen your phlegm, hydrates the mucous linings of your airways and disinfects the environment. Oils to try are lavender, eucalyptus, tea-tree or peppermint.
- Increase your intake of antioxidants: rooibos tea is rich in antioxidants and so is cayenne pepper. A teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a bit of water is a miracle drink that everyone should try to have every morning. Warning: it buns like hell. I have my yoghurt or a glass of milk ready to soothe the burn.
- Dose up on Vitamin C as this vitamin serves a protective role in the body. With respect to fighting infection Vitamin C blocks potentially damaging free radicals, is an antioxidant and a natural antihistamine which means it stops inflammation that the body produces in response to allergies. Food rich in Vitamin C include parsley, broccoli, strawberries, oranges, lemons, papaya, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. You can also just buy it in tablet or powder form from any chemist and some grocery stores.
- The herb, Echinacea, is a natural anti-biotic and acts as a decongestant that dries the mucous linings in a gentle way, whilst supporting the immune system.
I have just eaten some home-made veggie soup that my ma made complete with a generous helping of cayenne pepper, taken my Vitamin C tablets and am about to get into bed with a “Hot Toddy” in my lovely Paris mug (a birthday present from a friend last year) and my Marie-Claire magazine. I apologise if this post does not flow very well, I blame my stuffy head.
What home remedies do you recommend to relieve the symptoms of the common cold or what are the things that you need as TLC when you are sick and feeling sorry for yourself?