Immune Health During Cold & Flu Season
By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.
It’s October in New England, and colds are very common. While some people find themselves more prone to colds and other upper respiratory infections than others, there are some steps we can all take to help to prevent getting sick. If/when you do get sick, or start to feel like you might be getting sick, there are also ways to lessen the severity/longevity of the illness and recover more quickly.
Immune health: our highest goal is to prevent getting sick altogether. The first step to illness prevention is to wash your hands. Yes, having clean hands is so basic, but it is absolutely key to staying healthy. I know there may be times where you might not have access to soap and water, like when you’re on public transport, which is why carrying Hand Sanitizer with you at all times is beneficial. Just like washing your hand would, using hand sanitizer helps get rid of bacteria from your hands. Beyond handwashing, some healthy lifestyle habits to keep your immune system at its best include getting enough sleep, managing your stress and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. We realize that these factors are sometimes out of one’s control, but being mindful of these habits and doing what you can to stay healthy is advisable. Here are some more detailed immune health tips from Harvard Health Publishing.
Acupuncture can play a role in a healthy functioning immune system. Receiving regular acupuncture is helpful for both immune function and stress reduction; therefore it is recommended as a means of prevention of illness, and can also be used as an effective remedy/treatment when you start to have symptoms of illness such as a sore throat or nasal congestion. When you start feeling sick, the key to preventing a full-blown cold or sinus infection with the use of acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine is to be treated with acupuncture and/or take herbs as soon as possible after you start having symptoms, ideally within the first 24 hours – the sooner the better. Chinese herbal medicine, particularly Yin Chiao for sore throat or Cang Er Zi Wan for sinus congestion/pressure/pain, is very helpful for the acute onset of illness, particularly as soon as symptoms begin. Zinc lozenges, Echinacea and Goldenseal tinctures and Elderberry syrup are also helpful supplements that can be taken right away as soon as symptoms of a cold begin in order to fight it off. You can find elderberry extract supplements from Quantum Health to help you combat an illness before it takes hold. Take these frequently/as directed for the first 24 hours of your cold symptoms and you may be lucky enough to fight it off altogether. Also do what you can to take it easy: extra rest, a nap and/or a break from physical exertion can help your body to change course and fight off illness.
We have a variety of Chinese herbal medicines for various upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, sinus congestion/pressure and cough, and there are acupuncture points to address these conditions as well. Some people also choose to take a glutathione supplement during the winter months to give themselves a boost. If you’d like to try herbs for a cold, just ask our acupuncturists which product would be most effective for you. If your body has succumbed to a cold, acupuncture and herbs can help your body not only relieve symptoms but also shorten the duration and severity of the cold. For nasal congestion the use of a neti pot or saline nasal spray is also a good treatment.
We do ask that if you have a fever, uncontrollable/severe coughing or gastrointestinal virus that you do not come in for acupuncture. In general we do our best to keep our clinic as clean as possible and work to prevent the spread of illnesses.
We hope that you are able to stay healthy, and we’re here to help you with prevention and treatment of common colds and other illnesses.