Cold and Flu Mythbuster Series Part 1

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season.  And although we’ve had warm bursts of weather, it’s still a good time to prepare yourself (and your immune system) for cold and flu season.  We’ve done some blog posts in the past about natural remedies for cold and flu season, so this time we thought we’d bust some common myths about this time.

First – You’re only at risk when it starts to get cold

While it’s true that we see an increase in cold and flu occurrences during the colder months, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reports that seasonal influenza (aka the “flu”) is actually seen throughout the year.  It is true that we see a spike in cold and flu symptoms during colder months – the CDC actually pinpoints October as the time cold and flu activity starts to increase, with it peaking between December to February.  However, realistically we can be at risk for cold and flu at any time of the year.  Our Toronto naturopath has already seen a number of people who have been sick with a cold through September.

With that being said, NOW is the best time to start preparing yourself and boosting your immune system to reduce your risk of getting sick this season.  While there are lots of ways to boost your immune system, we recommend starting with the basics: are you getting enough sleep? How’s your diet? How’s your stress level?  Are you getting enough exercise? Believe it or not, all of these things will affect your body’s ability to respond to a cold or the flu.  We need to get a good night’s sleep to make sure our body has the energy to fight off the cold or flu.  We need good nutrition, especially protein, to make sure our immune system has the nutrients it requires to stay strong.  Our stress is a huge factor that affects our immune system.  Being under chronic stress shuts down the immune system, so if you’re stressed all day at the office you’re more at risk from catching something from another person.  So make sure you incorporate a stress management strategy into your daily routine.  Lastly, movement of any kind helps to move our lymphatic system which helps to clear out waste from the body. Even if you can’t get to the gym, choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking the long way to work all count towards exercise.

Second – Antibiotics are required to help you get over a bad cold or the flu

We’ve heard a lot of people say they feel sick and they need to go to the doctor to get some antibiotics so that they can get better faster.  The CDC states that antibiotics will not work against a respiratory viral infection, and that most upper respiratory infections (sore throat, cough, and the common cold) are viral.  Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.  Common colds and the flu are caused by a virus, which means the antibiotics will not work against them.  Since there is no cure for a common cold our naturopathic doctor suggests the best thing to do when you’re sick is to get plenty of rest.

It is imperative to distinguish between a viral infection and a bacterial infection before using antibiotics because of the strong negative effect that antibiotics have on our digestive system.  Not only will the antibiotics kill off the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract and cause problems for your digestive system, if you are using antibiotics and you happen to have a viral infection you’re increasing your risk of developing a resistant bacteria and getting a super bug.  If you’re not sure get testing from your family doctor such as a throat swab.

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