Wondering how to fight viruses as we move towards September and schools open up again? It’s important to protect ourselves against viruses as much as we can. Scientists are not entirely sure why coughs and colds are more prevalent in winter months, but a few of the theories include:
- We spend more time indoors during winter, so are in closer contact with people who might be contagious
- We’re more likely to use public transport, so again, find ourselves in closer proximity to more people
- We’re exposed to less sunlight which means our vitamin D levels may drop, resulting in a weakening of the immune system
- Most viruses don’t do well when exposed by UV light. UV levels are lower in winter
- Viruses prefer cold, dry weather and are able to infiltrate the body more during those conditions
If you think antibiotics are the answer for viruses then you’re incorrect. The NHS remind us that GPs do not recommend antibiotics for colds because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses.
Likewise, antibiotics are not normally prescribed for coughs; unless you have a bacterial infection or you’re at risk of complications. Over to the NHS again who say that most coughs are caused by a cold or flu and you rarely need to see your GP.
So if you’re wondering how to fight viruses this winter and how to improve your chances of having a strong immune system, here are 10 ideas:
How to Fight Viruses – 10 ideas
Over the last few months, we’ve had common sense advice drummed into us, thanks to coronavirus. Hopefully we’ve all learned by now that three basic forms of self care can be surprisingly effective, namely:
- Washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds whenever you’ve come into contact with a surface that might be contaminated
- Not touching your face without washing your hands first
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and when in contact with others who might be contagious
Supplement with zinc
Zinc is necessary for health and is the second most common mineral found in our bodies after iron. [Source]
Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading viruses. In 2011, researchers discovered that taking zinc soon after the onset of symptoms of the common cold significantly reduces both the duration and severity of symptoms. In 2017, further research showed that 70% of patients who were administered zinc lozenges within 24 hours of developing cold symptoms had recovered after five days, compared with 27% of placebo patients.
Zinc interacts with copper in the body, so it is best used as a short term supplement.
In fact, at her Get Well Health Expo at Olympia, journalist Lynne McTaggart reported that Dr. Damien Downing – a pioneer in ecological medicine and president of the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine suggests the following preventive supplementation
Vitamin C: 3000 mg daily, in divided dosages
Vitamin D3: 2000 IUs daily (Start with 5000 IU/day for two weeks, then reduce to 2000 IU
Magnesium: 400 mg daily (in citrate, malate, chelate, or chloride form)
Zinc: 20 mg daily
Selenium: 100 mcg (micrograms) daily
Supplement with vitamin D
Public Health England advise that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter.
Although their focus is on protecting musculoskeletal health, there is mounting evidence to show that vitamin D is important for healthy immune function too. A study was done to determine if vitamin D concentrations in the blood correlated with the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections. They concluded that supplementing with vitamin D to raise the concentrations in the general population to above 38 ng/ml could result in a significant health benefit by reducing the burden of illness from viral infections during autumn and winter.
Dr Sarah Myhill worked as a GP for the NHS before going into private practice where she specialises in treating ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In this video she highlights some ideas for supporting your immune system and outlines simple measures that can help with cold, flu or other viral infections.
She shows an intriguing use of using iodine in a salt pipe to reduce microbial reproduction in the nasal passage:
It seems she is not the only person advocating the use of iodine to treat infections. In his paper “iodine: the Forgotten Weapon Against Influenza”, David Derry tells us that in a study spanning 25 years, methods for killing influenza viruses were carried out and iodine was the most effective agent for killing viruses, especially Influenza viruses.
Vitamin C and infections
When considering how to fight viruses, interest in the effects of vitamin C on the common cold has been around for decades. This page, from the National Center for Biotechnology Information highlights many studies, concludes that controlled studies have shown that vitamin C shortens and alleviates the common cold and prevents colds under specific conditions and in restricted population subgroups. They go on to say that vitamin C is safe and costs only pennies per gram, and therefore even modest effects may be worth exploiting.
This article goes so far to say that ” Vitamin C in megadoses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in the test population compared with the control group. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1999;22:530–3) ”
Perhaps your grandmother suggested hot honey and lemon for coughs and sore throats. And she wasn’t wrong! Honey is easy to get hold of, relatively cheap and tastes good!
The British Medical Journal published a study on the use of honey for upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). They found honey to be particularly helpful for cough frequency and cough severity. Researchers said “When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”
They also said “Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate, and contributes to antibiotic resistance. Honey might therefore provide an alternative when doctors want to prescribe something to safely treat upper respiratory tract symptoms”
Honey should not be given to babies under one year old.
Get some sympathy!
There is an interesting study which shows that the amount of empathy you perceive you are given when you have a common cold significantly predicts subsequent duration and severity of illness and is associated with immune system changes.
So go ahead and throw a pity party and see what sort of sympathy you can drum up – it’s all in a good cause!
Humidify your room
Earlier we mentioned that viruses prefer cold, dry weather. According to Tyler Koep, originally from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, running an air humidifier in a school for one hour could kill around 30% of the viruses flying around the air. It could be worth looking at the humidity levels in your home once you crank up the central heating – and take measures to keep rooms humidified.
Use essential oils
In her book “Aromatherapy an A-Z”, Patricia Davis says ” A few essential oils are powerfully anti-viral, the most important being bergamot, eucalyptus and tea tree. Of these, tea tree, is perhaps the most powerful. It also stimulates the body’s immune response to infection.
Baths, vapourisation (and where the respiratory tract is involved, steam inhalations) are the best form of treatment because massage is contraindicated if you have a fever. Vapourisations, whether by means of a burner, electric fragrancer, an aerosol diffuser or such simple means as a few drops on a wet cloth hung over a radiator, not only help the patient but are one of the best ways of decreasing the risk of the infection being transmitted to other people in the household.”
Consider what you eat
Eating a healthy, balanced diet provides fuel for your body and a wide range of vitamins and minerals to support good health. Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust share some basic common sense approaches to diet such as eating a hearty breakfast, and ensuring your meet your 5-a-day target for fruits and vegetables. [Source]
If you’re confused about what to eat, we can test specific foods and supplements for YOUR body. Rather than following a generic diet that may or may not work for you, the painless and non-invasive method of using kinesiology to find out what your body does and doesn’t like, will help you eat the right way for your individual body. We’ll spend time putting together an eating plan based on your results, so you know exactly what to eat to help feel your best. Contact us to book allergy therapy in the Forest of Dean.