Now that school is fully back in session and fall and winter are upon us, those bright-eyed happy children and teenagers are looking a little more tired and stressed. Add in the close quarters in school, sharing water bottles at practice (yuck), and the increased presence of virus in the dry and colder weather and you have the makings for some missed school days. That is not to mention the desks, door handles, lockers, and stairway railings that are prime reservoirs of germs (see my prior blog on airplanes and what makes you sick).
So, is getting a cold inevitable for your children? Are there things you can do to decrease the chances and limit the severity? Fortunately, yes!
A typical cold is related to a virus, the rhinovirus, of which there are many strains. In general, the common cold is not airborne but rather related to contact with contaminated surfaces which may be from other’s hands or droplets from a sneeze or cough. The first step is to stop the transfer of the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth where you can then become infected. Wash your hands frequently and carry and USE hand sanitizer. Don’t rub your eyes or pick your nose.
Strengthen your immune system. Adequate sleep, plenty of hydration and good nutrition are key. As added insurance, in case your diet is not optimal, supplement with a good multi-vitamin with minerals, and consider extra vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc. Exercise also simulates the immune system and has been shown to increase certain good cytokines such as Interleukin 6.
While the formal data for many herbal/supplement remedies ranges from good to lacking, the anecdotal data for many is strong. Whether this is related to a placebo effect or not, does not really matter if the end result is a shorter duration and decreased severity. With all of these, they are most effective when started as early as possible once symptoms begin.
- Echinacea is one of the most widely used herbs and evidence supports its ability to reduce symptoms.
- Goldenseal (berberube) has anti-bacterial properties-. There is not strong data of a benefit with the common cold but it may help in other conditions.
- Ginseng is used both prophylactically and for treatment.
- Vitamin C is the oldest touted remedy for the common cold. Despite conflicting data it remains a mainstay. Take 1-2 grams per day.
- Zinc has anti-viral properties as well as an important enzyme co-factor. Some of the strongest data in support are zinc lozenges that can decrease the duration of symptoms. Despite this evidence though, getting your child or teen to take it is a different story. They can taste nasty and as my own teen states “I would rather have a cold then take those lozenges”. A nasal zinc gel once claimed that it decreased the duration of cold symptoms, but unfortunately it was taken off the market because a small number of people developed permanent loss of smell. I used to swear by this and my own personal experience is that it worked and I can still smell!
- Chicken soup…there really is something to it. It makes you feel better and may decrease a cold’s duration and it tastes good.
When I feel a cold coming on or when I travel, my routine includes adding Echinacea to my usual regiment, adding extra zinc and vitamin C, and carrying some form of oral zinc lozenges, which I use at the first sign of a cold.
Here’s to a healthy winter!!