Most of us can easily treat our colds and flues at home without a trip to the doctor. Read on for some great tips on creating an emergency kit for natural treatment of your colds and flues as well as find out when you should see a doctor.

The key to success is speed and consistency: if you start treating within the first 12-24 hours of symptoms (ex. Scratchy throat or feeling run down) and you take your remedies consistently each day, you will either “nip the cold in the bud” or shorten its duration significantly.

At the first signs of illness do the following:

(1) Take zinc lozenges every 2-3 of waking hours. Use a dose of 13-23 mg zinc gluconate, gluconate/glucine and/or acetate. Dissolve very slowly in mouth. Take at first signs of illness until total disappearance of symptoms. Avoid lozenges with citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tartaric acid, manitol and sorbitol, all of which inhibit absorption. Fructose appears to be ok. Alternatively use a pure zinc tablet but don’t swallow it (for example, Swiss has zinc gluconate tablets). They don’t taste too bad. Some people experience local irritation from zinc.

(2) Take 500 mg of vitamin C every hour. Decrease if you get side effects such as loose stools or nausea. Typically this entails 1-5 grams daily. Wean off over a few days. Don’t take vitamin C when taking zinc. When choosing a vitamin C look for one that contains at least 100 mg of bioflavonoids (Natural Factors has one with 500mg of bioflavonoids) and avoid chewables unless necessary. Alternatively you can buy vitamin C powder, add a few grams to water, and sip it throughout the day.

Also important is that you get plenty of rest and drink lots fluids. Avoid the mistake of exercising the minute you feel a little better. Take a day of work and you will be much more productive when you return.

You may have heard the expression to feed a cold and starve the flu. That is, drink only fluids during a flu because you body needs to preserve all its energy to get better rather than to digest foods. Many symptoms overlap but in general a flu has an abrupt onset of weakness, muscle aches, headache a high fever (+ 5-6) and a dry cough often persists. A simple cold comes with feelings of malaise, sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat and only a slight fever (+1).

Some general guidelines for when you should call/visit your naturopath or medical doctor follow. However, if unsure, please call the Health Canada Hotline at 1-866-797-0000 at anytime day or night.

Seek help if the following apply:

Throat: tonsils are beefy-red (not just pinkish-red), swollen & pus covered, been exposed to strep throat, have a red rash that feels like sandpaper.

Nose/head: have severe facial pain or headache, nasal discharge is yellow or green all day long.
Cough: severe and/or produces thick, rusty, or greenish mucus, chest pain on breathing or difficulty breathing through your mouth.

Ears: moderate to severe ear pain, discharge or still painful after 10 days.

Fever: 103 degrees F or greater, lasts more than 4 days, shaking, chills, soaking sweats, shortness of breath or mental confusion.

Abdomen: persistent pain or if pain is localized to one area, black/bloody stools or vomit or coffee grounds appearance to vomit, more than eight bowel movements per day.

Persons: Elderly, immune compromised diabetic or a child. (Source: Common Cold Cure, Ray Sahelian, MD)

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