Wintertime is often referred to as influenza or the ‘flu’ season because of the barrage of the common cold virus during this time. It is unlikely to-not-get afflicted with one in the whole of winter. This year, particularly, is witnessing an unprecedented rise in cases of cold, cough and fever, not just in India but also in other countries across the world. The trend could be attributed to an increase in socialization in recent times amid the diminishing Corona scare – with people not following appropriate social distancing measures, not wearing a mask and a rise in travel in most societies – apart from reduced immunizations for other diseases like influenza due to more emphasis on covid vaccination.
Additionally, an increase in pollution levels, especially in North India, is also giving rise to cases of allergic cough with a concurrent risk of superadded infections.
Other reasons for frequently catching cough and cold
If you are one of those who tend to smoke then you need to keep that under check right away. Smoking impacts the cells of the immune system, making one prone to frequent colds and coughs. Try to quit the addiction and stay healthy.
2. Not maintaining personal hygiene
Ensure good hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize them frequently. Also, covering the mouth while coughing and sneezing is the need of the hour. Do not spit on the roads or in public. Wear a mask and maintain a safe distance from people who are sick.
Stress can not only take a toll on your mental health but even physical well-being. It can lead to a weakened immunity which may not allow you to fight infections.
4. Insufficient sleep
The inability to sleep peacefully weakens your immune system, increasing your susceptibility to colds/coughs/fevers and other infections. Getting nights of adequate and sound sleep can help you stay in top shape during the colder winter days.
5. Remaining indoors during the chilly months
People tend to spend most of their time indoors on cloudy and colder winter days. Thus the already slowed-down immune system during colder temperatures is further compromised by breathing in the not-so-fresh indoor air. Hidden dust, mites and mould at the corners/carpets/curtains or damp places at home come into air circulation the moment we switch on our heaters or blowers and can invite allergies and the common cold.
While the illness itself is nothing too serious, it can be highly contagious and may become frustratingly lingering to deal with.
What can you do to boost your Immune System?
A winter flu can temporarily compromise your immune system and throw your optimal functionality for a complete toss. As with any illness, it is important to boost the immune system to minimize the susceptibility of picking up viruses and infections during winter.
Make sure your diet is balanced, rich in nutrients, packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, and rich in Vitamin C to help your body build white blood cells, which help fight against invading germs.
Here are a few practices you can inculcate, in addition, to ensure you prevent yourself from catching any winter illness.
# Ensure you get adequate vitamin D
This sunshine vitamin plays a crucial role in the optimal functioning of your immune system. Although just 30 minutes of direct sunlight a day can work for most to get this naturally from Mother Nature, it is common to develop a vitamin D deficiency during winter-time due to the cloud cover. Supplementing with about 10,000 IU of Vitamin D each week can cut your risk of developing an upper respiratory infection by half. Ensure you consciously get this vitamin D to keep your immune function optimal.
# Consume probiotics daily
Winter coughs and colds can potentially be prevented by adding probiotics to one’s diet. By introducing good bacteria into the body, probiotics give you access to a plethora of benefits, like improved digestion, better mood regulation, and strong immune function. Whether it is a bowl of dahi, idli sambhar, or a probiotic supplement, ensure you keep your gut health a priority through the use of these fermented foods.
# Green tea consumption may help
Swap out your cup of black coffee with strongly brewed green tea or matcha tea [possess great antiviral properties]. Green tea and its family of teas have the magic ingredient catechin or EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which studies show, can neutralize influenza virus particles as they enter your system. Some research also indicates that catechin can also suppress any pneumonia-causing bacteria. However, make sure you do not overdo your consumption of green tea, as it is a diuretic and may cause mild adverse effects. Adding one or two cups of green tea to your day is ideal.
# Exercise regularly
There is a strong positive correlation between healthy immunity and regular exercise. Exercise is known to gradually build up one’s immune response to stressors. To reap the benefits of physical activity and ensure you don’t catch winter illnesses, it’s crucial to be consistent though. Find an exercise you enjoy to make sure that you can be consistent with it.
Exercise also stimulates the production of blood vessel constricting epinephrine that can relieve issues like nasal discomfort that come with common colds.
# Take regular steam
Not only can steam bring relief in winter coughs and colds it can also be used as a preventive measure. Dry winter air can often trigger dust allergies. Adding humidity to one’s surroundings through a humidifier or inhaling steam can help with air quality-related ailments. Inhaling steam through slow and deep breaths for 5-7 minutes every three to four days during the winter season helps keep your airway clean and devoid of allergens.
# Increase the consumption of good fats
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a post-exercise inflammatory cascade of killer cells that hunt down the common cold virus. Omega-3 can be found most in fish like salmon and anchovies [make a great pizza topping]. They are available to vegetarians in nuts or supplements like fish oil or evening primrose.
Homoeopathic-aid amid the dropping mercury
Irrespective of which stage you are starting at, viz, you’ve just caught the infection or are coming after one or two courses of antibiotics/ anti-allergics, or have been on bronchodilators, OR whether you have a tickly cough, dry cough, chesty cough or wet cough, Homoeopathy offers a range of successful treatments to help you and your family through the winter months. Here are a few medicines I’ve found handy this season for winter illnesses:
1. Arsenic album: It is the medicine if you get a cold and dry cough after having cold drinks or cold food like ice creams or any food item from the refrigerator. Cold food is not only one which is kept in a refrigerator but also food articles which are cold by nature like curd, cucumber, banana and even regular water in winter as it becomes cold.
2. Antimonium tart: It is a Homoeopathic expectorant. It works best in the acute onset of congestive cough where there is a lot of mucus in the chest and it is not coming out.
3. Antimonium arsenicum: Works best if you have breathlessness due to an accumulation of a lot of mucus in the chest after having cold food or drinks or a change of weather.
4. Drosera: Bouts of barking cough in rapid succession causing breathlessness that might end up in retching and/or vomiting. The cough is dry in the evening and gets loose by the morning.
5. Hepar sulphuris: In case of acute onset of cold, cough, fever, or throat infection [tonsillitis] after exposure to dry cold winter wind.
6. Influenzinum: As the name suggests is effective for treating all influenzal colds, coughs and catarrhs with headache, body aches, nausea, chills, fever and congestion of the respiratory passage. When given not in disease, it strengthens the body and increases its resistance to the season’s flu viruses.
7. Phosphorus: When every cold seems to trickle down the lower respiratory passage causing laryngitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and may turn into pneumonia. There is an excessive feeling of tightness and burning in the chest. The cough can cause you to sit up and cough out large amounts of mucus.
8. Squilla: It is most suitable for a gaging cough caused by tickling or mucus stuck in the trachea and allergic sneezing. It can develop after a sudden exposure to cold and dry winds.
9. Spongia: One experiences great dryness of the air passage, causing hoarseness with dry barking and croupy cough, which gets worse during inspiration and before midnight. The cough starts as soon as one lies down with head low and in a heated room and abates after eating or drinking, esp. warm drinks.
10. Stannum metallicum: It helps in reducing severe exhaustion and weakness following an acute illness and restores the body’s natural physical strength. Exhausting post-viral coughs with profuse mucous secretions are its best seat of action.
If a lingering cough or repeated attacks of cough are adversely affecting the quality of your daily life this winter, maybe you need to consult your homoeopathic physician.