The seasons are changing, and with colder weather and shorter days, bubbies and moms all through Canada, are yelling “Zip up your coat before you catch a cold!”. Despite loving and good intentions, zipping up your coat might not actually make a difference, as being cold won’t directly make you sick.
So what does?
In actuality, to catch a cold (or upper respiratory tract infection), you have to come into contact with a virus. Around 50% of colds are caused by Rhinovirus, and while there are many other forms of viruses that can lead to upper respiratory tract infections, Rhinovirus is most virulent and aggressive in colder temperatures.
However, there are more factors than this alone. It’s been speculated that heating the home during colder months increases illness, through drying the air, making mucus less moist and less effective at trapping infections. To add to this, a study from 2017 noted that chilled immune cells are less effective when it comes to fighting off infection, which may contribute to the overall rise in colds during the winter months.
Perhaps the biggest inconvenience about getting sick is the discomfort that comes with it. Sneezing, coughing, muscle aching, and general fatigue can interrupt a busy life, which is why there are so many options available to combat symptoms. Unfortunately, solely focusing on symptoms doesn’t address the virus itself. This is where an alternative approach that boosts immunity and fights the infection can be a helpful addition to cold/flu treatments. Mega-doses of Vitamin C, Oregano oil, and Hydrotherapy are just a few examples of what have been suggested as highly effective for boosting immunity to kick a cold, but how can you know which are worth trying?
Since the 70s, Vitamin C has been a popular method for attempting to beat a cold. The idea being that a large supplemental dose will boost immunity enough to fight off the virus. Research on this has been consistently inconclusive over the years, and currently it’s thought that a mega dose has no added protection against viruses. The research on Vitamin C is an excellent example of how important research can be for alternative methods, as, despite it’s popularity, when studied closely, it’s been found to have minimal benefit.
Oregano oil has become popular for it’s intense antibacterial, and antiviral properties. In fact, it’s been leading the essential oils trend, and being used by the masses to ward off colds, flus, sore throats, and more. Oregano oil has a strong flavor and can be taken orally in a liquid or pill form. It can also be applied topically to the bottom of the feet. Studies show that Oregano oil is excellent at boosting immunity and offers both a protective and defensive action when it comes to Rhinovirus, making it a good choice as prophylactic or rehabilitative.
Hydrotherapy is another long standing method of healing the body. It can be used for a variety of conditions, from constipation to arthritis. Colds happen to fall within it’s reach. A 2014 study on hydrotherapy and it’s effects on the body noted that repeated exposure to water stimulation lowered the number of respiratory infections experienced, and increased deep breathing, and immune cells. Anecdotally, some report decreased congestion, increased energy, and generally feeling better after hydrotherapy for a cold.
Contrast showers are a practical way to try hydrotherapy from home. Begin by showering in hot water for two minutes, and then switch the water to cold for one minute. After one minute, turn the water back to hot. Repeat three times.
Alternative remedies, whether based on old wives tales, or customs passed down through generations might be worth adding to your cold rescue plan. Luckily, with technology, there is usually enough evidence that can give an idea to whether or not an alternate therapy is worth trying. Oregano Oil and Hydrotherapy are just two of many options, and many others do exist. If in doubt always speak with your doctor before adding or trying something new.
Written by Dr. Deborah Mechanic and published in the Canadian Jewish News