Woman blowing nose into tissue

5 Most Common Winter Illnesses and How to Beat Them

Every year winter comes and with it a slew of common illnesses. Most of these can be prevented and all can be treated and cured quickly if you take the right steps.

Seasonal Cold

Runny nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat; none of us look forward to getting a cold, but the unfortunate fact is that come the winter months it happens to many of us.  For some it’s a mere annoyance, while for others it can be misery, but for all of us it’s something to try to avoid and minimize, however it presents itself.  There’s no reason to feel helpless, however, as many natural remedies and preventatives exist to help get you through the winter months!

Natural Remedies For The Seasonal Cold:

  • Prevention is simply the best cure: making sure to get a good full 7-8 hours of sleep each night, good hydration, regular exercise, and a varied plant heavy diet will do the best job of keeping your immune system in shape to fight off infection.
  • If you are not currently on a daily pro-biotic, there may simply not be another more profoundly effective way to seal yourself off from future illness.  Your average health foods store (my preference is whole foods) will carry a good stock of pro-biotic options in pill form (there will be many good inexpensive options as well, read reviews and ask for help), then just simply take one in the morning and in the evening on an empty stomach, with water.
  • While sink, drink plenty of fluids, most specifically water!  This will help thin out your mucus, making it much easier to pass without congestion or coughing, all while preventing dehydration.
  • When we say rest, we mean it.  When your body is fighting off an infection, it’s in over drive and keeping yourself plugging away will only delay your recovery.
  • To clear your sinuses, the classic treatments of spicy food and a hot shower will do a lot to lower the misery of the infection.
  • For your own natural cough syrup take one part honey (preferably local, unfiltered, and raw honey) and one part apple cider vinegar (also preferably unfiltered) and mix VERY well.  Take one tablespoon every four hours for natural throat soothing.

Treat a Cough Naturally

Seasonal Flu

One of the worst infections most of us have ever had was a simple, but miserable, seasonal flu.  The stuffed sinuses, sore throat, and cough of a cold, but with added severe nausea, aching, and a fine selection of other symptoms.  Sometimes you get sick, and it’s unpleasant but it happens, however I really try to make people understand that there is a lot you can do to help strengthen your immune system and minimize the chances you will get sick.  Does getting sick once every 2-3 months sound better, or maybe getting sick once a year, and for half as long, and half as severely?

Natural Remedies For The Seasonal Flu:

  • The best way to fight out an infection is always to prevent it from getting a hold in the first place.  Wash your hands often, especially after coming in contact with other people (especially children!), door handles and other common items of contact, and before you eat.  Keep hydrated, eat healthy plant based foods daily, and get regular sleep.
  • Take a daily probiotic!  I cannot stress this strongly enough, keeping healthy and strong gut ecology may be one of the best ways to prevent getting sick.  Ask a local health foods/grocer employee about a good and affordable daily option.
  • Once you are sick, make sure you get rest!  Your body will not be able to recover if you force it to dedicate its resources elsewhere.  Likewise, keep very hydrated or mucus will just get thicker and cause a lot more problems. Gargling salt water will also help get rid of mucus.
  • To make a fantastic natural and healthy cough syrup mix 1 part honey (preferably local raw unfiltered) with 1 part apple cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered) and take one teaspoon every 4 hours.  Add a hot shower daily and breathe in the steam to help throat and sinuses alike.
  • Apply a warm compress (warm wet wash cloth) to the forehead and nose to help headache and sinus pain.

Natural remedies for the flu

Seasonal Depression

Whether or not you are the type of person who looks with much excitement towards the sunny days of summer, or someone who revels in the beauty and fun of the snowy winter months, many people suffer from seasonal depression.  What is seasonal depression you ask?  The lesser amount of sunlight that occurs during winter can actually cause someone to be depressed, or at the very least a lot less upbeat and energetic, and this has nothing to do with their affection or disliking of the season.  While no one is entirely certain what causes the condition, it is thought highly likely that it is from the lesser amount of sunlight, which our brains use in part to moderate the release of the important hormone melatonin.

Home Remedies For Seasonal Depression:

  • First and foremost, try to get into the sunlight during daylight hours, even if it’s just being at a window instead of in a back room if you’re inside.
  • Try light therapy.  There are many sun-lamps (you must specifically use a sun lamp, normal lights won’t do) which offer similar light qualities to actual sun exposure, and have been shown to help those affected by seasonal depression.
  • While not clinically proven, tryptophan is the precursor amino acid to serotonin, the chemical in your brain that is in large part responsible for happiness.  You can eat more foods that contain tryptophan and they may help improve your mood.  These include: turkey, milk, egg whites, basmati rice, cereals, bouillon, and various fruit (such as apricots, apples, pears, grapes, plums, oranges and grape fruit.

 How to get rid of seasonal affective disorder

Strep Throat

Strep throat is an incredibly unpleasant seasonal illness that is most well-known for the severely scratchy and painful throat that comes with the infection, which can often prevent you from speaking during the infection.  It presents quite similarly to the cold but is often more severe, especially with throat based symptoms.  There is much you can do from home, however, to help naturally manage it’s symptoms.

Natural Home Remedies For Strep Throat:

  • The main thing you want to do for strep throat is to moderate the soreness of the throat, which can be done with honey mixed into warm tea or water.  You can also gargle saltwater several times a day to help break up mucus.
  • Popsicles or other cool beverages, as well as lozenges and a cool mist vaporizer/humidifier will also do a lot to minimize throat pain.
  • For herbal assistance, marshmallow, slippery elm, and licorice have been shown to reduce throat irritation and inflammation.
  • Garlic and Echinacea have had some lab evidence to show that they may help fight off the strep throat infection itself, so should definitely be included in your line of defense.
  • Add to these many of the traditional cold and flu treatments to help minimize discomfort and symptoms and you will be on your way to recovery!

How long is strep throat contagious

RSV (Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

RSV (Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a respiratory infection that many of you may not have heard of, but can be quite serious and fairly common in infants and the elderly.  Almost 100% of infants will be infected by the virus by age 2-3, with 60% being infected during their first winter.  2-3% will end up being hospitalized from resulting bronchiolitis, so is something to be taken seriously.  While we develop anti-bodies and become somewhat immune, we can get infected again every 7 years or so for the rest of our lives.

What are the symptoms of RSV?

  • For adults the symptoms are usually mild and will be confused with the common cold.
  • In infants, the illness may present with listlessness, possibly a fever, and poor or diminished appetite.
  • Recurring wheezing and asthma has been found to be more common in people who had an RSV infection in their first few months of life.

Natural Remedies For RSV:

  •  The first step is to pursue all the same steps you would take for a seasonal cold or flu to help minimize the complications of chronic coughing and congested sinuses.  The biggest concern is to keep the person comfortable and help minimize symptoms to help prevent escalation or complications.
  •  The use of eucalyptus oil especially if mixed in with a humidifier will help reduce mucus membrane inflammation and will loosen phlegm.  Without a humidifier you can dap some onto a warm damp rag and breathe in the fumes.
  •  Keep away from smoke or other airway irritants as these can seriously aggravate the throat and lead to complications.

 Summary

There are couple things you can do to greatly reduce the chance of catching any of these illnesses. The main thing is to wash your hands often and thoroughly. Make sure you use soap and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, between your fingers and under your finger nails. Another thing you can do is to keep windows open to increase the flow of air through your house. This will help to keep you from catching illnesses that are lingering in the air. Follow these instructions to reduce the chances of spreading cold/flu or other illnesses among your family.

 

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