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What is the Common Cold?

written by Head Health Nutter December 17, 2008

It’s that time of season in the Northern Hemisphere when that nasty cold virus comes out to play. We usually get colds, especially in December, because of environmental conditions and internal stresses from the holidays that compromise our immune systems (read this post to stay stress free during the holidays).

Colds are minor annoyances but will set you back, at best, a few days, and at worst, two weeks. There’s wisdom in the adage, “Know Thy Enemy” so here’s a description of the culprit:

From Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC.

  • The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus.

Myth: cold weather causes colds. Fact: most cold viruses thrive better in colder temperatures, when there is less humidity in the atmosphere.

  • There are more than 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, but the most common ones are rhinoviruses.
  • Well-known symptoms include head congestion, nasal congestion, sore throat, coughing, headache, sneezing, and watery eyes. Children may develop a low- grade fever, but this is rare in adults.
  • They usually strike 18 – 24 hours after the virus enters the body.
  • Most colds clear up on their own in a week to 10 days, but occasionally a cold can lead to a more serious illness, such as bronchitis, a middle ear infection, or sinus infection.
  • There’s often confusion between the symptoms of the common cold, influenza, and allergies.
  • It is estimated that healthy adults get an average of 2 colds per year. Children generally get many more because their immune systems are immature, and they have not yet developed immunity to many of the viruses that cause colds.

Right when you first start feeling the cold coming on, with a slight sore throat or stuffiness in the nose or head, this is your best chance to win the war. Avoid a messy battle by taking action instantly to boost your immune system and flush that sucker out. Here are a few tips and natural remedies to try at the first onset of a cold:

  • Take vitamin C and zinc lozenges every 3 hours for the first day of cold symptoms.
  • Remain as active as possible to loosen built-up mucus and fluids. Unless you have a fever, a brisk walk or any other type of moderate exercise should make you feel better.
  • Eat more garlic, ginger and onions – sure you may be stinky, but at least you won’t have a cold!
  • Use an alcohol-free echinacea and goldenseal combination extract tea to boost your immune system and keep the virus from multiplying.
  • Wash your hands often. Cold viruses can survive for several hours on hands, tissues, or hard surfaces. A healthy person can contract the virus by touching a contaminated surface, then touching his or her own mouth or nose.
  • Flush facial tissues because they harbor the virus, tissues can pass on the virus or cause you to reinfect yourself.
  • Try not to spread the cold to your family or colleagues. Refrain from close contact with loved ones and shaking hands.
  • Bovine colostrum (I just started taking this to prepare for a Caribbean cruise!), taken in the cold and flu season may help to ward off infection.

Fun Fact

You can, in a sense, catch a cold from yourself. When your immune system weakens from factors such as stress and/or a poor diet, viruses can take hold. These viruses are opportunistic and lie dormant in the body, taking hold when the immune system is at its weakest. Stress is often a factor.


Congestion, cough, and/or sore throat are signs of a cold, but if these symptoms occur together with fever or fatigue, you may have the flu. If congestion develops in the chest, it is best to consult a physician, as chest (lung) infections can be serious. Also contact your health care provider if your fever goes above 102ºF for more than three days, if yellow or white spots appear in the throat, if the lymph nodes under the jaw and in the neck become enlarged, and/or if chills and shortness of breath occur.

So do you have any natural remedies that kick the cold bug outta your system before it gets a chance to take you down for the count?

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