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The holiday season is here, and we want to look and feel our best. Unfortunately, this time of the year coincides with the beginning of the dreaded increase in upper respiratory infections. People with weakened immune system and chronic respiratory conditions are especially at risk. Instead of loading on OTC cold /flu medications that are not effective, but often create more problems, these simple rules will help you to get over your cold /flu faster and avoid complications.
- To unblock congested nose, perform nose unblocking exercise. Good demonstration of the exercise you can find here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeLqJXRVq-Y
- It is important to ensure nasal breathing all the time; every effort should be put into unblocking your nose, so you don’t mouth breathe. If you have a severe congestion and nose unblocking exercise helps only partially, natural decongestant sprays (such as with grapefruit seed extract) can be a good add-on. Saline rinses can be very helpful also. For bedtime, if everything else fails, and you cannot breathe through your nose all night, OTC decongestant sprays, such as Afrin, can be used, but not more than for 3 days. Decongestant teas can be a good option, but read the label. For example, overconsumption of licorice, often found in decongestant teas, might elevate blood pressure. Educate yourself on the herbs you are taking, and consume specific herbal teas/supplements in moderation.
- Do Short Breath Holds (SBH) exercise (3-4 sec breathholds) throughout the day, about 10-15 min at a time. A good demonstration of SBH exercise you can find here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDtVGzSH_Uo&feature=related
- If you have fever, chills, fatigue, stay in bed and rest, but if not, try not to stay in bed all day, move around. Lying down all day long will increase hyperventilation.
- Remember correct way to cough and blow your nose. Do not force cough. Do not blow your nose too hard. When need to cough, take a small breath through the nose, cough gently with your mouth closed or cap mouth and nose with tissue/hand/elbow. Gentle breath holding and quiet breathing with smaller inhales will stop coughing fit before it has a chance to develop. Start doing breath holds after normal exhale at the first sign of cough or if you need to relieve mucus. Sometimes you feel that mucus plug has shifted and makes you congested, but it is “not quite there” to cough it up effortlessly. Gently reducing your breathing together with doing holds will shift the mucus plug, while forcing it out by taking big breaths through the mouth and coughing repeatedly will make your airway constrict more. When blowing nose, blow gently, one nostril at a time, then wipe, then hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Dental hygiene is very important during upper respiratory infections. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day, clean your tongue with tongue scraper. Sanitize your brush and tongue scraper often. Rinse with natural alcohol free mouthwash that contains herbal extracts and essential oils. Many of them have natural anti-viral / anti-bacterial extracts/oils in them.
- To relieve sore throat, use a solution of baking soda and salt in warm water. Gargle 2-3 times a day (once at bedtime). Don’t drink or eat for at least half an hour after gargling.
- Taking immune boosters might help. Echinacea can be taken at the very first sign of symptoms and continued for three days only. Recent clinical studies confirm that Elderberry can help prevent and relieve flu, including H1N1 virus. Elderberry can be taken for the duration of the flu / cold and as a preventative measure whenever you need a gentle immune boost.
- Drink plenty of liquid. Green and herbal teas and warm water with a bit of fresh lemon juice are the best. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Tea with honey and lemon is excellent for soothing sore throat or relieving that “raw” congested feeling in your chest. Raw local honey is the best, if available.
- If you don’t have appetite, don’t make yourself eat; if you do, it is better to have smaller portions and lighter foods.
- Great foods that will speed up the recovery are homemade chicken soup (made from chicken meat with bones, root and other vegetables) and salads with raw garlic and onion. Raw garlic and onion are natural anti- bacterial and anti-viral foods.
- Try not to lower your temperature until it reaches alarming degrees such as above 102F (39 C)*. Raising temperature is body’s way to fight bacteria / virus. One natural way to gently bring fever down is to take a lukewarm bath (with the temperature slightly lower than the body temperature). If your fever is high, you experience weakness or dizziness, be sure you are assisted and supervised while taking a bath, and of course, always supervise children. One of the Russian folk remedies to lower temperature and fight virus is to drink plenty of hot tea with homemade pureed sugared berries or berry preserves, such as raspberry or black currant. Resulting sweating usually causes drop in temperature. Interesting, Dr Mercola suggests the tea, which he says works by the same principals. A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.
* The exception is if you know that you/ your child have a history of seizures or other complications caused by high fever.
- If congestion and mucus persist and become bothersome, breathing exercises such as Short Breath Holds (SBH) or breathholds of about half of your Control Pause (What is Control Pause – How to measure your Control Pause) will help to shift and expel mucus easier. There are few herbs that are natural expectorants, but be thoroughly informed of what you are taking. Do not take them for a long period of time. If you have lung conditions such as COPD,
pulmonary hypertension, bronchiectasis, consult your doctor before taking any herbal or other expectorant
- Let yourself fully recover and try not to expose yourself to cold temperatures outdoor until your symptoms subside significantly
- Having adequate levels of Vitamin D3 is shown to shorten the duration of the cold/flu and increase resistance to upper respiratory infections in general. Safe sun exposure is the best way for the body to take and utilize Vitamin D, but in winter months it becomes problematic. Know your Vitamin D level; if you are deficient, take supplements (D3). Probiotic supplements and Cod Liver Oil / Krill oil / Fish oil are other good supplements to take to strengthen immune system and reduce inflammation. Oregano oil is known for strong anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties. Supplementing with Vitamin C and Zinc can be very helpful during upper respiratory infections.
- All these measures should help you shorten the duration of your cold/flu and avoid complications, but if fever persist for more than 5 days, especially if you have lung disease or history of chronic respiratory / ENT infections, visit a doctor to make sure you don’t have pneumonia or other bacterial infection. Other symptoms that should prompt visit to the doctor include ear or sinus pain with a lot of nasal stuffiness or drainage, shortness of breath, cough that is not subsiding after a couple of weeks, coughing up dark colored green or yellow sputum.
- If you were diagnosed with bacterial infection and needed a course of antibiotics, follow by at least one month of probiotic supplements.
- And finally, consider taking a full Buteyko course, such as the one we offer. One of the major advantages of learning the Buteyko Breathing is that once your breathing is physiologically healthy, you become much more resistant to viral, bacterial and fungal infections. It is that simple –PREVENT upper respiratory infections rather than fight them later.
Have a safe, healthy and joyful Holiday Season!
Buteyko Clinic USA offers unique breathing rehabilitation programs that result in long term drug free control over asthma, allergies, COPD, rhinitis, chronic cough, snoring, sleep apnea, anxiety, panic, chronic hyperventilation syndrome and other chronic conditions. Contact us today for a free consultation.