Colds and flu
It is very common to resort to conventional medications for pain and respiratory relief. Antibiotics are a common prescription – and although effective at killing-off some bacteria they are of no use against viruses. They also weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to further illnesses. There is however, a more effective and natural approach to treating colds and flu and that is to strengthen your immune system. By boosting your immunity, it not only helps you stay healthy it can help shake off colds and flu more quickly.
At IMI we support a natural and holistic approach to treating colds and flu. We can recommend herbal, dietary, complementary, and natural therapies. We can also advise on some simple steps to reduce your risks of catching a cold or a viral infection.
Colds and influenza ("flu") are common infections that affect the upper respiratory tract particularly the nose and throat. It is caused by different types of viruses, such as rhinovirus, influenza and adenovirus.
These viral infections are usually transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes and spreads contaminated droplets through the air. Infections can also be spread by direct contact with the infected person or his or her personal effects.
In Hong Kong, flu can be particularly nasty and virulent with some fatal epidemics. With increased sensitivity to flu, symptoms can quickly worsen into chest infections and pneumonia. It has even been known for schools to close during an epidemic to ensure “social distancing” and a shut down of the chain of infection.
Symptoms of the common cold usually resolve in 7 to 8 days but flu can extend to 2 weeks and beyond.
There are many and varied symptoms including:
- Fever, muscle aches, headache
- Sneezing, Running nose or congestion, watery eyes
- Weakness and fatigue
- Cough, Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
For the common cold apart from the obvious adverse weather conditions, humid atmosphere, sudden changes of weather - it is the immune system that plays a fundamental role in the susceptibility of getting sick and the length of time the infection may last. One of the more common but often neglected causes of a weakened immune system especially in children, is vitamin D deficiency. In Hong Kong, where air-conditioned environments and shaded windows keep out the sunshine this is no surprise. Research shows that those who are deficient in vitamin D have nearly twice the frequency of colds over the winter months.
Seasonal influenza, which is better known as the flu is not the same as the common cold. The flu is a contagious, respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Most healthy adults recover within two weeks but high-risk groups are children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses. These high risk groups can develop complications, such as infections of the upper or lower respiratory tracts or pneumonia and in the worst cases, it can result in death. According to the World Health Organisation, annual influenza epidemics are estimated to result in about three to five million severe cases and about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths globally.
In the case of flu, there are four types of virus: A, B, C and D. We are mainly affected by the pandemic-causing type A and type B strains.
Having a balanced diet is very important to build long term immunity as well as the right amount of sleep and avoiding excessive stress. However, with deteriorating soil quality, imported foods, and the added environmental stressors of living in a city like Hong Kong, it is very difficult to achieve adequate nutrients from diet alone. At IMI we can recommend good quality supplements to help strengthen your immune system.
Our naturopaths can also combine several vitamin and herbal treatments with a homeopathic remedy (this is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine.) If you already have a cold or flu, then we can recommend a range of supplements and practises to help overcome the symptoms, including potent medicinal herbs, clinical grade supplements (e.g. vitamin D, elderberry extract, fish oils.) If the viral infection becomes bacterial, a more targeted treatment is required, potent herbs may be prescribed and if necessary a course of antibiotics. Ideally, the specific strain would be identified and the antibiotic prescription targeted with a particular focus on re-building the immune system with good quality probiotics and other remedies along the way.
As well as supplementation, therapies such as osteopathy is incredibly effective for supporting recovery and healing. Even if you or your child has a simple cold or cough, gentle techniques can help to support the lymphatic and respiratory system as well as alleviate symptoms and speed recovery.
Chinese traditional medicines is also effective treatment for cold or flu. From a TCM perspective, cold and flu occurs from an external pathogen, which enters the body. This means that the body may have a weakness or immune deficiency that weakens one’s resistance (overwork, not sleeping, eating poorly, etc.) and allows a pathogen to attack and enter, causing disease.