Updated: Oct 27
This time of year is called the cold and flu season because most viruses occur more frequently during the fall and winter. Our immunity can be lowered and taxed by the colder weather and social factors, such as spending more time indoors near infected people. All of these illnesses are defined as infectious agents that replicate inside the cells of organisms. But as we have all seen with COVID-19, they can become a pandemic (widespread occurrences of an infectious disease) without boundaries.
Cold symptoms can be a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and possible fever. Traditionally, the theory is that a cold can occur from exposure to cold weather, which is how it got its name. Although there is no cure for the common cold, preventative methods like hand washing, not touching eyes, nose, or mouth, and staying away from other sick people are suggested. Additionally, symptoms can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and cough medicines.
Influenza (flu) is categorized into three types: "A" is called bird flu because they are the natural hosts and can also become infected by humans. "B" exclusively infects humans and is less common than A, and "C" infects humans, dogs, and pigs but is the least common. Symptoms of the flu include fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and tiredness. Nausea and vomiting occur more commonly in unrelated infections like gastroenteritis, sometimes called "stomach flu," which may have other complications, like viral or bacterial pneumonia and sinus infections. We are familiar with the yearly flu shot, which is considered the best defense against this virus.
Covid-19 stems from various viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in China known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to flu symptoms but move quickly to the respiratory system and are more deadly.
Ayurvedically, the cold and flu season begins as we transition from the hot, bright, and intense summer (Pitta) months into the fall (Vata) season, when the qualities become cooler, drier, lighter, and windier. This transition can weaken our immunity and make us more susceptible to illness. Then, when the winter (Kapha) season arrives with its cold, wet, heavy, and stagnant qualities, infection is more prevalent.
Staying healthy is about building and protecting immunity. Ayurveda strengthens the Vata dosha during the fall season using warmth, wetness, heaviness, and stability, which grounds the body, mind, and spirit and supports the immune systems for winter. As the heavier and more stagnant winter arrives, you could introduce the actions (warmth, dry, light, and mobile) to remove heaviness, wetness, and possible congestion and stagnation.