January 21st, 2017

To Your Health: The season of colds


By Gillian Slade on January 9, 2017.

It is the season of colds but there are things you can do at home to reduce your symptoms, bring temporary relief and perhaps even provide some comfort.

If you have a cold, as opposed to influenza, you generally don’t need to see a doctor.

“Influenza is much more severe of an illness than a common cold,” said Dr. Donovan Nunweiler, Southlands Medical Clinic. “You feel fever, chills, body ache, and the illness affects your lungs quickly and symptoms are more severe.”

A common cold is a viral upper respiratory illness and can be accompanied by a persistent cough for a few weeks.

To relieve symptoms a hot steamy shower can go a long way. It is especially beneficial, I think, to have one just before going to bed.

If the air in your home is generally dry and you don’t have a humidifier, try boiling a pot of water on the stove to fill the air with steam and moisture. Set a timer so that you don’t forget about that pot on the stove. You don’t want it to boil dry.

It turns out mother did know best when it came to giving you a steaming bowl of chicken soup when you had a cold. It is comforting, nourishing, and will actually help to clear your nasal passages temporarily too. It does not have to be chicken soup though. In fact, any soup will do and a clear broth is particularly good. If you don’t want the work of making soup and there is no supply in your freezer try a cup of boiling water with some flavouring. A cup of hot water with slices of lemon works well. Add a little fresh ginger or even ginger powder. You can add a little honey as well but go easy on the honey.

If you prefer a cold drink aim for clear liquids and fruit juices. Cold water with slices of lemon is refreshing.

Blow your nose, don’t sniff. Use tissues, layer them double when you have a cold, rather than using a handkerchief. Throw those tissues away immediately after use. You don’t want germ ridden tissues hanging around.

Don’t spread your cold germs to everyone else. If you are sharing your home with others this is a good time to avoid kissing and hugging. Frequently, even several times a day, wipe door handles, faucets, toilet lever, and counter tops with hot soapy water or disinfectant.

Nunweiler suggests a patient should see a physician if they have a fever lasting more than four days, a new fever after symptoms were improving, an isolated sore throat for more than four days with no other symptoms, development of severe ear pain (not just pressure with reduced hearing), severe chest pain, or shortness of breath. A persistent cough that is a nuisance may warrant assessment by a physician, he says. There are a few options to provide for symptom relief, other than an antibiotic.

Here’s to relief from colds and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her by email or call 403-528-8635.

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