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Coughs and Colds  

The common cold is, as the name suggests, very common and easy to catch. Most adults tend to catch a cold about three to four times a year. Unfortunately, children are much more prone to catching colds as their immune systems are vulnerable. The first cold symptoms normally manifest themselves as feeling tired, sneezing, coughing and having a runny nose. A fever is not often present and if it is, it usually remains a low fever of just 1 or 2 degrees higher than usual. Influenza tends to be more severe and longer lasting. Nevertheless, both illnesses can cause children and adults alike to become miserable and grouchy.

The rhinovirus is the one virus most frequently responsible for colds, and not surprisingly, it is also one of the most contagious. Most colds are very rarely serious and are only of concern if they lead to secondary infections such as strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and croup. It is commonly accepted that although antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, they are not effective against viruses and will only help in the case of secondary infections. Antibiotics also rob the body of important ‘good’ bacteria. Children who become repeatedly on one course of antibiotic after the other can be compromising the protective characteristics of the digestion system by altering the flora and the gut wall. Although exposure to some infective agents may help children’s immune system to be stronger, it is probably more prudent for children, adults and particularly elderly persons to take actions to reduce the risk of a more serious infection. Herbs and nutritional supplements offer good prospects alongside dietary and environmental measures.

The validation of natural approaches to colds is open to question but many naturopaths accept that daily supplements of Vitamin C and possibly Zinc and Vitamin D can reduce the risk, and when experiencing the first symptoms of a cold frequent supplements of Vitamin C and/or Allicin garlic can inhibit the virus. The herbs Echinacea and elderberry taken during a cold have been shown to reduce its duration, and taken profalactively may also reduce the risks of common cold viruses. Beta Glucans 3,6 can reduce respiratory infections.

Although it may not seem like it, a cough is a protective action by the body in healthy individuals. A cough is an involuntary reflex (something which we cannot help) that is initiated by two classes of nerves with endings in the lungs. Persistent coughing can aggravate a sore throat.

For non-smokers, the most likely causes of a persistent cough are asthma, heartburn, or post-nasal drip. Other causes of chronic cough include chronic bronchitis and side effects from certain conventional medications. A cough can also be a symptom of an upper respiratory infection or bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Natural cough remedies may help alleviate the discomfort associated with bouts of illness-induced coughing. Some viruses can produce an inflammatory reaction without any infection remaining leading to persistent throat coughs or bronchial discomfort.

A frequent or chronic cough usually indicates the presence of a disease. Productive coughs (coughs that produce phlegm) are treated with expectorants that loosen mucus from the respiratory tract. However, it is always better to promote the body’s ability to expel mucus and phlegm and keep the mucus membranes moist, as dried out mucus membranes can be left susceptible to further infection.

There are many natural cough remedies available that address various forms of coughs. Propolis (a by-product of bee keeping) is very effective for some common throat infections. Manuka honey (certified versions) can relieve soreness by gargling as it not only has antibacterial properties but can promote healing of tissues. Pine and lobelia are common herbal bases of traditional throat remedies. Plantain may reduce nasal drip by relieving sinus or nasal tissues,