Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dealing with (a wretched) Cold

You've heard about "fighting a cold" - well it is possible. From a strong offense (including the right way to wash hands and upping vitamin D rather than C), to killing it before it takes hold, to getting into it, once it hits - just caring for of all things, nasal hairs, to help clear it out.

Going on the Offensive:
Hand Washing. The best defense is a good offense, and one of the best offenses is washing one's hands, and learning what that means. Not a fast pass under the tap and a shake, but washing 'em (cdc even has a video) There are actually five steps to hand washing: get the water going, get soap in hands, put hands together and rub the palms; then get the backs of the hands, then between the fingers and thumbs, then finger tips. It takes 20secs (singing happy birthday to yourself twice) to get a good hand washing done (try not to touch the facets or door handles in a public can after you've just washed your hands). And if you're curious, for repeated scrubbings, washing hands was shown to be better than using gels, but gels are better than a kick in the head in a pinch, and CDC is recommending the gels in hospitals.

Anecdotally a bunch of us last year committed to improving our hand washing practice, and watched the incidence of colds in our lives decrease. This ain't scientific but it does jive with what we know about cold bugs staying on surfaces for hours after contact with a carrier. It's cheap, it's easy, and seemingly effective.

Also, um, don't pick your nose. That's where the virus works. Touch a germy surface, go for the nose, well you get the picture.

Vitamin D and Vitamin C are both purported to help, but not as a superdose thing. In other words, the idea is to make sure you're getting enough vitamin D and vit C in your diet throughout the year, and in particular in cold season, rather than trying to superdose during a cold. But the really cool thing is that research is showing that C may be a fave, the money (and research) is supporting Vitamin D - something where we are chronically deficient

Indeed, more recent research shows what your mom or grandmom has known for generations: that codliver oil (or loading up on vitamin D) is what keeps away the winter sniffles. While some folks are happy with time release 1000mg of Vit C during cold season in particular, the Vit D question has really been interesting, with recent work suggesting that we need to hit 4000IU's a day - that's about 100 times higher than the current RDA. Other sources range from 2000-10,000, but whatever the number, it's substantially higher than current RDA

Likewise, is zoning down on stress is a great way to barricade against colds taking hold. Seriously, we all over motor our anxiety from time to time, and especially around a cold inflicted setting, that's a great way to improve access for germs. No time to get zen? You can induce meditative states with audio beats technology.

If Cold Symptoms Show Up.

Chelated Zinc. Timing here is everything.

If right at the moment you feel the ghost of a symptom, and you ingest 50mg of chelated zinc (you can get this from places like H&B in the UK or CVS in the States), you can kill off the effects of the cold - doesn't mean the cold doesn't pass through you, but the symptoms are neutralized or greatly reduced. You have to hit it *right* at the start - if the symptoms take hold it's too late. Also, you know if the strain of cold you have is going to be kilt if you feel symptoms lessen in about 30-60 mins after taking the zinc. If they don't lessen, well, hang on for a bumpy ride.

Again, anecdotally i can attest to chelated zinc working this past year to suppress the effects and fight off the efforts of at least 3 colds. The one i'm recovering from now - the worst i think i've had - was not a strain susceptible to zinc. oh man, talk about awful. I'm trying to look on the positive side as below about why it's ok to get the snot kicked out of one by a cold once in awhile.

In the mean time: be careful not to mix vitamin c and zinc. It's wild seeing lozenges that blend zinc and c: in lozenges they cancel each other's effects out at the local level (ie, in a lozenge, or for instance, sucking a zinc lozenge and then drinking OJ. Not optimal).

If a cold Takes Hold: hunker down when it gets bad
It's a false frickin' economy for someone to go to work or school when they are feeling like crap or oozing and coughing. I'm not talking about feeling a little stuffy or having a slight cough. I'm talking the full on symptoms where you're no use to yourself or anyone else.

I know folks who say they *have* to go to work even if they have a cold. That's awful. Where i work, there are few positions i can imagine being so irreplaceable that someone can't afford to miss a day. It's tough if it's for a killer meeting, but even there, some folks might say well life is about relationships that are on going rather than moments that are fleeting.

But philosophy aside, there are real benefits for YOU (and your colleagues) in staying HOME (or wherever) once those symptoms really kick in while you recuperate. First of all, colds are draining on your system: they are going after a lot of cells and that takes energy, so your resources are down. So on those couple of really crapy days, why not stay down and support your body to be able to focus its energy on repair rather than a bunch of other energy using activities?

Also, why spread infection? Spreading colds costs the economy Billions.

It's a myth that we're ONLY contagious before the symptoms happen. In fact, best science has it we're likely contagious one to three days BEFORE symptoms manifest and MOST CONTAGIOUS when symptoms are at their worst (2-4 days into it). So stay home! take care of yourself, get healthy faster.

If you've Got it, Have it
Avoid Taking Decongestants, etc. According to some sources, if you've got a cold (or flu) let it do it's thing: let your nose run, your lungs cough, your fever rise (within reason) - take an aceteminophin if needed, but otherwise let the symptoms go through you *while getting plenty of rest* Why? this is the natural way for your body to purge weak cells that would otherwise take much longer to get kicked out. A cold could be a good thing. Love your cold.

Neti Pots. Now, just because you're not taking a decongestant doesn't mean you want to be horking mucus all day. Something you can do for yourself that's quite natural, ancient and soothing is to use a neti pot for a nasal wash. Effectively, you pour a saline solution up one nostril and the saline comes out the other. Great to have a good blow so that clear stuff doesn't fester and go yellow up in the sinuses. Gross i know, but there it is.

The intriguing thing is, is that Neti Pots have been used for daily nasal douching for centuries apparently, and like other cool things, there's good science for doing so. Apparently our nasal hairs can get freaked out in a cold, pushing mucous in the wrong direction. A nasal wash helps get them circulating the right way again. As a sign of just how far this technology has moved into the main stream, in the US, CVS sells plastic neti pots with pre packaged sodium blends for saline douching.

Yup, love yourself, love your cold. And love your co-workers: stay home, get well.


helium said...

Zinc works great for me. It's one of the few supplements that I take.

But I try to get my vitamine D from sunlight if possible.

mc said...

Helium, thanks for the note.

glad you can get your D from sunlight. Alas, most of us in North America and Europe don't have that luxury for much of the year.

And heh, for colds, ya pumping up zinc can be awesome. the great thing is, you don't need to supplement with zinc unless you're not getting it from your diet. Here's a list of foods rich in zinc.

thanks for dropping by!


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