If you’re anything like me around this time of year, you cling to the Kleenex, tea, and Vitamin Supplements. It doesn’t help that I’m in an area where my allergies are the worst in 40 years of my life and, as I have drifted “over the hill” in age, it is harder for me to fight off colds and illnesses when I do get them. It also drains me much more and I simply don’t have the patience I did years ago to calmly wait for the illness to pass. The worst part about this time of year is that I’m a serious germophobe and on top of my anxiety, my obsession with cleanliness can get a little out of hand (no pun intended).
And now I know why! Every year in the U.S., there are more colds than people. Annually, nearly 320 million Americans catch 1 billion colds, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Seven in 10 people will turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to help them feel better. Now, mind you, I am an “au natural” or “granola” person for the most part, so I try to steer clear of medications unless it’s dire necessary. But, I am not totally against medication either, all natural Herbalism was the foundation of medications, so I won’t hesitate to take or give my kids medication. However, I am also very cautious with the amount I give and what kind of medication I give. I am very sensitive and have been known to have allergic reactions to medications, such as the anesthetics they gave me during child birth which caused me to go into a coma and I’ve broken out in hives to the point of life+death situation, so I am very particular with medications for myself and my family.
But with the arrival of cold and flu season, it’s nice to know the AAC’s Know Your Dose campaign offers some helpful tips for preventing illness and safe medicine guidelines if you do get sick.
* Get vaccinated for the flu. While I am not particularly fond of this and I do not get them, some people may opt to do so. According to the AAC, it’s the best way to minimize the chance you’ll get the flu and spread it to others. Even if you got a flu shot last year, you need to get one this year, too. Each year’s shot is different, specifically designed to prevent the strain of flu expected to be most prevalent this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend anyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. However, in my opinion, there are so many new flu diseases out there that a single flu shot is not going to cover them all and therefore this tip may not be the best choice.
* Be diligent about washing your hands regularly. Each time you wash, scrub for at least 20 seconds – about how long it would take to run through two renditions of “Happy Birthday.” I am a germophobe , so I am constantly on this one.
* Avoid actions that spread germs, like touching your face, especially the eyes, nose and mouth. If you do get sick, stay home from school or work to avoid spreading germs to others. Again, germophobe here, so this is very important to me.
* Maintain good health habits, including getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food. All these actions help build your immune system. I’m not one to preach about sleep or exercise, trust me, but I do drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy, and take my vitamins.
Great Tea for Cold & Flu
Long before the advent of antihistamine tablets and specially formulated cold remedies, cold and flu sufferers turned to herbal teas to relieve their symptoms. Those homemade infusions were rich in vitamins, minerals and medicinal compounds. You can find commercial versions of these old-time remedies in most health food or natural grocery stores, or you can take a page out of the past and make your own. In the herbalist’s pharmacopoeia, specific herbs address particular symptoms, here are some of my favorites.
- Peppermint Tea – Contains menthol which helps break up congestion along with having a calming and numbing effect. A helpful natural remedy when you have symptoms like a headache, nausea and congested sinuses.
- Ginger Tea – A cup of tea made with ginger has a wonderful warming effect on your body that feels very comforting if you have a chill from a fever. It’s especially helpful relief if you have an upset stomach.
- Yarrow Tea – Relaxes you while offering great immune system support. This classic herbal remedy for colds and flu encourages your body to sweat which can help naturally reduce a fever. You could also try one of my favorites, the Traditional Medicinals Seasonal Tea Sampler Variety Pack, 16 Tea Bags
- Cinnamon Tea – Another stomach-soothing herb, cinnamon makes a nice hot tea to warm your body and ease aches that can come with a cold or flu.
- Clove Tea – An expectorant that makes it easier to cough up congestion in your lungs, a tea made with cloves can also encourage sinuses to open up so you can breathe easier and settle down an upset stomach.
- Licorice Tea – With a delicious sweet flavor without the sugar, licorice supports your immune system while reducing soreness in your throat. Another fantastic herb for calming spasms in your lungs if you have a bad cough while thinning mucus so it’s easier for your cough to be productive instead of dry and irritating.
Know your dose
If you or a family member does fall ill, you may decide to treat symptoms with medicine. To ensure you’re using these medications safely, follow these steps:
* Always read the label on any medicine you take. Be sure you understand and follow the dosing instructions.
* Know if your medicine contains acetaminophen. It’s important to know which of the medicines you’re taking contain acetaminophen so you can ensure you’re not taking too much.
* Take only one medicine that contains acetaminophen at a time. Taking more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen could put you at risk for exceeding the maximum daily dose.
I hope these tips help you through this winter and keep you and your family happy and healthy! As with anything, if you have questions about an OTC or prescription medicine that you’re taking, talk to a healthcare provider or to learn more about medication dosages, visit KnowYourDose.org.