Colds and flu (influenza) are both viruses (small infectious agents that can replicate inside the cells of another organism) and where the flu can possibly be prevented by vaccination, but there is not a cure for the common cold. The World Health Organization recommends having a yearly flu shot, which can be useful but has much controversy with some. Symptoms can seem similar to a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and possibly fever, but the flu is more pronounced affecting the joints, can cause respiratory complications, diarrhea, and vomiting, and even death.
The cold can stem from 200 different viruses and is spread through the air during close contact with infected people and indirectly through contact with objects in the environment. The primary methods of prevention are hand washing, not touching the eyes, nose or mouth, and staying away from other sick people. Although there is no cure for the common cold, the symptoms can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and cough medicines.
The traditional theory is that a cold can occur from exposure to cold weather, which is how it got its name. Some viruses are seasonal, occurring more frequently during the winter weather, which can decrease the immune response, and with lower humidity, viral transmission rates can increase. Seasonality also includes social factors, such as spending more time indoors near infected people.
Influenza, commonly known as "the flu", is an infectious disease caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by direct transmission from the aerosols from an infected person coughing, sneezing or spitting and through hand-to-eye, hand-to-nose, or hand-to-mouth transmission, either from contaminated surfaces or from direct personal contact such as a handshake.
The symptoms of the flu include fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and feeling tired. Nausea and vomiting occur more commonly in the unrelated infections like gastroenteritis, which is sometimes referred to as "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu" which has possible increased complications including viral or bacterial pneumonia and sinus infections.
There are three types of influenza viruses, influenza A is referred to as bird flu because they are the natural hosts and can transmit to domestic poultry giving rise to human influenza. Influenza B almost exclusively infects humans and is less common than influenza A. Influenza C virus infects humans, dogs, and pigs but is the least common. Influenza spreads around the world yearly, resulting in about 3-5 million cases and outbreaks occur mainly in winter.
More significant outbreaks, known as pandemics, are less frequent. In the 20th century, four pandemics occurred: Spanish in 1918 (50 million deaths), Asian in 1957 (2 million deaths), Hong Kong in 1968 (1 million deaths), and in 2009 the A/H1N1 pandemic had 200-500,000 deaths.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the cold and flu season begins as we start to transition from the hot, bright and intense summer (Pitta) months (June-September) into the fall (Vata) season (October-January) when the qualities in and around us become cooler, drier, lighter and windier. This transition can weaken our immunity and make us more susceptible to illness. When the winter (Kapha) season (February-May) arrives with its qualities of cold, wet, heavy, and stagnation, the onset of the disease is possible. In Ayurvedic medicine, the Vata dosha is responsible for the immune system, and Kapha dosha is responsible for the respiratory and nasal system, and the stomach. In Ayurveda, like increases like, so a preventative program is the best way to be proactive during the cold and flu season.
The first step to staying healthy is to balance and strengthen the Vata dosha during the fall season using the opposite actions of warmth, wetness, heaviness, and stability, which grounds the body, mind, and spirit and strengthens the immune systems for winter. When winter arrives, you would then possibly introduce the opposite actions (warmth, dry, light, and mobile) of Kapha to help rid the body from illness.
Below are some holistic practices (Diancharya) and suggestions that will help protect you from illness.
Rest is probably the most essential consideration of building our immunity.Wash your hands often, soap inactive viruses.Regular elimination is essential; drink 2 cups of warm water each morning after brushing teeth, this informs the body it is time to go.Stay hydrated; it is recommended drinking half your body weight in ounces of room temperature, or warm water, and herbal teas throughout the day for optimum digestion. Use a Neti Pot, the mild salt-water solution supports nasal tissues and prevent sinus infections. Gargling with salt water loosens excess mucus, removes bacteria and relieves sore throats.
Do not skip meals or overeat, find regularity in your meal schedule (helps to balance Vata), and make your most substantial meal at lunch when the digestive fire is strongest. Stay away from processed, frozen, canned, and microwavable foods.Stay away from cold, heavy, and acidic foods like meats, nuts, ice cream, yogurt, nightshade vegetables, and sour and green fruits, which slow down digestion and create toxins, choose lighter and simpler foods like soups and broths, white rice, cooked vegetables, and oatmeal.Use warm spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, cardamom, basil, rosemary, and coriander, which stimulate digestion and warm the body.
Herbal Remedies- (Recipes, products, and handouts can be found on my website)
Turmeric Nectar is a powerful anti-inflammatory but will boost immunity and aid in digestion.Chyawanprash, an Ayurvedic herbal jam, and is the most concentrated source of vitamin C in the plant kingdom and has rejuvenating and revitalizing properties Jeff's "Greatest Cough Drops" will soothe the throat and persistent coughs.Turmeric Ginger Lemonade will break up mucus and reduce respiratory inflammation. Tulsi tea is specific for its adaptogenic effects for colds and flu.Chewing a small piece of fresh ginger relieves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.Triphala churna helps to balance and strengthen digestion, immunity, and elimination.
Rejuvenation & Bliss (Handouts on the website)
Use Nasya Oil to lubricate nasal passages and open up sinuses.Before bed, rub feet with sesame oil, put socks on, and enjoy a good night's sleep.Ginger-Baking Soda Bath will release toxins and relaxes the muscles and relieves coughs.Daily Ayurvedic self-massage will benefit the skin bringing calmness and stability.Oiling the ears lubricates the upper eustachian tube and the cervical lymph nodes benefiting the lymphatic and glandular system and builds immunity.Oil pulling or swishing is a powerful defense against a cold, removing harmful bacteria and boosts good immune-boosting bacteria in your mouth.