As snowflakes fall gently outside, you’re huddled indoors, sniffling and sneezing. Sound familiar? You’ve likely come down with a cold or the flu, two of the most common ailments during the winter months.
The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that Americans suffer from roughly 62 million colds per year. In addition, up to 20 percent of Americans come down with influenza each year during flu season, which runs from October through March.
In addition to the discomfort and inconvenience of feeling “under the weather,” coming down with the flu can also be a very serious concern for those with weakened immune systems, for young children and for the elderly.
Thankfully, there are many natural ways to stay healthy during the winter season. Read below for some helpful tips to avoid catching a winter cold or the flu, as well as helpful remedies to hasten your recovery if you do become sick:
Top 7 Natural Remedies to Prevent and Soothe Winter Cold and Flu
While drinking water is important throughout the year, it’s especially crucial during winter weather when dehydration puts you at greater risk of illness. In addition, cold and flu germs can more easily latch on to the mucous membranes in your mouth, nose and throat when they are dry, so it’s best to stay hydrated. The most important factor to be aware of in winter is that even if you’re dehydrated, you may not feel thirsty. In warmer weather, your body naturally elicits a thirst response to prevent dehydration. But in the winter, the way that your body responds to the dropping temperature alters the brain’s ability to monitor and detect dehydration, hindering the body’s ability to produce the thirst response. When you don’t feel thirsty, you may not remember to drink, which causes further dehydration. If you find yourself getting dehydrated, use this simple natural remedy for dehydration.
Both cold and flu germs enter the body through mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth. Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Medical Center, in New York City, explains that “eighty percent of all infectious diseases are spread by direct contact, such as kissing or shaking hands with a sick person, or by indirect contact, like touching a doorknob or handling a phone that a sick person has used.”
To keep your hands clean, always wash with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds. Also, be aware of what you touch and avoid hand contact with the face and its mucous membranes.
Exercise keeps your body strong and ready to fight off illnesses. And if you do catch a cold, you may recover faster if you’re physically fit. Researchers have found that cold symptoms lasted half as long in women who walked for 45 minutes per day, five days a week, as they did in women who were sedentary. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you exercise for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week, to lower your risk for respiratory infections.
Stress and anxiety weaken both the mind and physical body, leaving you tired and less capable of fighting off illnesses. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, assessed the stress levels of about 400 healthy adults and then exposed them to the rhinovirus. It turned out that those who were the most stressed were twice as likely to end up with a cold. Meditation is a simple method to reduce stress and anxiety, which anyone can do with just a few minutes per day. To learn a simple guided meditation for reduced stress, click here.
Inhaling hot steam moistens the nasal passages, opening congested sinuses and clearing blocked nostrils. To perform a steam inhalation safely, boil water and then transfer it into a bowl. Make sure that you keep a minimum distance of 30 cm between your face and the bowl. Drape a thick towel over your head such that it forms a tent around the bowl and your head. Breathe through your nose for a minute or two. Take a break until you feel relatively cooler and repeat. If, at any point in the treatment, you experience discomfort, take off the towel immediately and release the steam.
For additional benefit, you can also add a small amount of ginger, rosemary, or eucalyptus oil to the hot water.
Runny nose remedy
If you’re suffering from a runny nose, use this simple remedy to stop the sniffles.
Measure 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp honey, and 1 tsp of broken peppercorn. Mix them well in 1 glass warm water and drink 2-3 times daily.
If your symptoms include coughing, this remedy will help soothe your irritated throat.
Grind together 20 mustard seeds with 1 tsp honey. Take once a day in the mornings on empty stomach for 48 days.