If someone asked you which foods were good for helping fight a cold, you would probably think of things like oranges, because they are known to contain vitamin C. You might also suggest chicken soup, since this is one of the most well-known home remedies of all time. Scientific research has proven that there are benefits from eating chicken soup, but there are many other foods you can eat that will help you battle a cold. Here is a sample.
Most people know that oysters have a reputation as somewhat of an aphrodisiac, but they probably do not know that they can also help your body fight a cold. Oysters are rich in zinc, and zinc is a mineral that helps fights colds as researchers discovered when they tested the effectiveness of zinc lozenges. They found that people whole took zinc lozenges experienced cold systems for a shorter amount of time.
We all know that eating lots of garlic comes with a risk of offending some people around you due to the strong odor it can leave on your breath. When you are suffering with a cold, you may consider this a risk well worth taking, however. One of the key ingredients in garlic is called allicin, and it has proven itself as a potent antioxidant, and antioxidants help the immune system fight illness.
#3 Yogurt and kefir
Just about everyone is familiar with yogurt, but have you heard of kefir? Where taste is concerned, kefir might be described as liquid yogurt. It has a lot in common with yogurt, and that includes loads of beneficial bacteria. These tiny microbes are actually helpful to our health, and many of them take up residence in the digestive tract and help fight off bad bacteria. Both yogurt and kefir can help fortify your own private army of beneficial bacteria that will help destroy unfriendly bacteria, and help boost your immune system, making it better able to fight off a cold.
#4 Red peppers
Vitamin C often comes to mind when we think of the best way to fight off a cold, but we are probably inclined to think about things like oranges and other citrus fruits when someone mentions vitamin C. Red peppers should not be left out in the cold, however, since they are loaded with vitamin C. Just a single red pepper averages about 150 milligrams of vitamin C, which is twice the recommended daily allowance for women. Many experts believe even more vitamin C should be used to treat a cold – as much as 500 or even 1000 milligrams a day.
Another food you may not even consider when thinking of foods that help fight colds are mushrooms. Granted, not everyone loves these earthy-tasting fungi, but for those who cannot get enough, getting a cold means it could be time to pig out on mushrooms. The many varieties of mushrooms that are edible differ quite a bit when it comes to their nutrient content, but most of them contain antioxidants that will help give your immune system a bit more strength to kill of a cold.
#6 Sunflower seeds
These tasty seeds are popular as a snack, and are often salted and sold in individual packages in retail stores. It’s the antioxidant power of the vitamin E in sunflower seeds that makes then useful in the battle against colds. They are probably a bit healthier if you get them unsalted, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure.
#7 Brazil nuts
While we’re talking about nuts, we may as well take a little time to mention Brazil nuts. These crunchy treats not only help you fight colds, they can also help your body kill off other viruses like the flu. A medical research study from 2001 found that mice infected with a flu virus suffered from more severe inflammation if they did not have enough selenium in their system. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, and don’t need to be eaten in great quantities to get their benefit. Just one Brazil nut contains more than the daily recommended amount of selenium.
This is something that may naturally come to mind to help ease the symptoms of the common cold. Not only does it tend to make you feel better to sip hot tea when you are feeling sick, it has real cold-fighting benefits as well. Virtually all tea contains compounds called catechins which are powerful antioxidants that are effective in the fight against illness. A study conducted in Japan in 2011 found that people who took catechin supplements for five months lowered their chances of catching the flu by 75 percent! That sounds like it might be better than a flu shot!
Most of us would take just about anything if we thought it might keep us healthy during cold and flu season. It turns out that there’s some evidence to suggest that an herb you likely have in your kitchen might be able to help stave off sickness this winter.
Some natural health enthusiasts promote oregano oil as a means to fight cold and flus, keep your digestive tract healthy, and soothe problem skin. But is there any science behind the hype? Here are the 11 things you should know about oregano oil this winter.
Oregano Oil Facts
Yes, it’s from the herb: Oregano oil is, as the name implies, oil from the oregano herb that is extracted by steam distillation. Or at least from an oregano herb — there are more than 40 varieties of the plant. According to Alive, the oil from Oreganum vulgare is believed to hold the most therapeutic benefit.
Stuffed up? You may find some relief by adding a couple drops of oregano oil to a diffuser or vapourizer and inhaling for a few minutes. Drinking a few drops of oil in juice or water may also provide some relief from a sore throat.
It’s also used for GI problems: Because there’s some evidence that oil of oregano has anti-fungal or antiviral properties, it’s thought to be helpful for some gastrointestinal issues. One small study showed that treatment with oregano oil may be useful for parasite infections, but further study is needed.
It could have anti-fungal properties: Some studies have shown that in lab cultures, oregano oil puts up a strong fight against Candida albicans, the bacteria that causes the fungal infection candida. Other research found it may have a similar effect against the mold fungis Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger. However, similar studies haven’t yet been done in human subjects.
You can use it on your skin: It’s thought that oregano oil is helpful for skin conditions like cold sores, muscle aches, nail fungus, joint pain, and dandruff. Try diluting it with a carrier oil like jojoba, sweet almond, or grapeseed, at 10 to 12 drops oregano oil per ounce of carrier oil. However, don’t use oregano oil on broken or sensitive skin, as it can be irritating. There is some anecdotal evidence suggestions that it may be effective for treatment of psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition, but no published research yet.
It’s a natural insect repellent: Oil of oregano contains many compounds, and one of them is carvacrol — a natural insect repellent. This compound is also found in plants like mint and thyme. Try putting a few drops of oil on outdoor furniture — test first on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t stain — or apply a dilution of it to unbroken skin when heading outdoors.
It may help in the fight against antibiotic resistance: Some people believe that we can stave off antibiotic resistance by turning to natural solutions like oregano oil more often. One lab test in 2001 found that oregano oil was effective in killing staphylococcus bacteria, and another published laboratory study out of the UK found that it showed effectiveness against 25 different bacteria.
It tastes terrible: Don’t expect that you’ll enjoy taking oregano oil, even if you love Greek food. It has a much more potent taste in oil form, so be prepared!
Be careful: Because oregano oil in its pure form is so strong, it should only be used when diluted; try a ratio of one part oregano oil to three parts carrier oil, such as olive oil. Undiluted oregano oil can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. It is also possible to purchase diluted oregano oil.
It’s meant for short-term use: In Alive, clinical herbalist Michelle Lynde recommends using oregano oil for acute conditions, by taking four to six drops at a time for seven to ten days.
It’s not for everyone: The therapeutic use of oregano oil should be avoided in infants and children, and pregnant or nursing women. It also should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or a heart condition. It’s always a good idea to talk to your preferred medical professional before starting a new wellness routine, and to disclose your use of alternative therapies in case of counter-indications with other medications or treatments.
Garlic (Allium sativum), is used widely as a flavoring in cooking, but it has also been used as a medicine throughout ancient and modern history; it has been taken to prevent and treat a wide range of conditions and diseases.
Garlic belongs to the genus Allium and is closely related to the onion, rakkyo (an onion found in Asia), scallion, chive, leek, and shallot. It has been used by humans for thousands of years and was used in Ancient Egypt for both culinary purposes and its health and therapeutic benefits.
This article will look at the potential health benefits of garlic and cover any research that supports the claims.
In this article:
Garlic for food and medicine – a brief history
Garlic is used widely today for its therapeutic properties
Health benefits of garlic – scientific studies
Fast facts on garlic
In many countries, garlic has been used medicinally for centuries.
Garlic may have a range of health benefits, both raw and cooked.
It may have significant antibiotic properties.
Garlic for food and medicine – a brief history
Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about 5,000 years ago.
Richard S. Rivlin wrote in the Journal of Nutrition that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 BC), known today as “the father of Western medicine,” prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue.
The original Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic – possibly the earliest example of “performance enhancing” agents used in sports.
From Ancient Egypt, garlic spread to the advanced ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley (Pakistan and western India today). From there, it made its way to China.
According to experts at Kew Gardens, England’s royal botanical center of excellence, the people of ancient India valued the therapeutic properties of garlic and also thought it to be an aphrodisiac. The upper classes avoided garlic because they despised its strong odor, while monks, “…widows, adolescents, and those who had taken up a vow or were fasting, could not eat garlic because of its stimulant quality.”
Throughout history in the Middle East, East Asia, and Nepal, garlic has been used to treat bronchitis, hypertension (high blood pressure), TB (tuberculosis), liver disorders, dysentery, flatulence, colic, intestinal worms, rheumatism, diabetes, and fevers.
The French, Spanish, and Portuguese introduced garlic to the New World.
Garlic is used widely today for its therapeutic properties
Currently, garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.
Garlic is also used today by some people for the prevention of lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.
It is important to add that only some of these uses are backed by research.
A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology warned that short-term heating reduces the anti-inflammatory effects of fresh raw garlic extracts. This may be a problem for some people who do not like or cannot tolerate the taste and/or odor of fresh garlic.
Health benefits of garlic – scientific studies
Below are examples of some scientific studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals about the therapeutic benefits (or not) of garlic.
Lung cancer risk
People who ate raw garlic at least twice a week during the 7 year study period had a 44 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study conducted at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China.
The researchers, who published their study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, carried out face-to-face interviews with 1,424 lung cancer patients and 4,543 healthy individuals. They were asked about their diet and lifestyle, including questions on smoking and how often they ate garlic.
The study authors wrote: “Protective association between intake of raw garlic and lung cancer has been observed with a dose-response pattern, suggesting that garlic may potentially serve as a chemo-preventive agent for lung cancer.”
Organo-sulfur compounds found in garlic have been identified as effective in destroying the cells in glioblastomas, a type of deadly brain tumor.
Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina reported in the journal Cancer that three pure organo-sulfur compounds from garlic – DAS, DADS, and DATS – “demonstrated efficacy in eradicating brain cancer cells, but DATS proved to be the most effective.”
Co-author, Ray Swapan, Ph.D., said “This research highlights the great promise of plant-originated compounds as natural medicine for controlling the malignant growth of human brain tumor cells. More studies are needed in animal models of brain tumors before application of this therapeutic strategy to brain tumor patients.”
Women whose diets were rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis, a team at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia, both in England, reported in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Examples of allium vegetables include garlic, leeks, shallots, onions, and rakkyo.
The study authors said their findings not only highlighted the possible impact of diet on osteoarthritis outcomes but also demonstrated the potential for using compounds that exist in garlic to develop treatments for the condition.
The long-term study, involving more than 1,000 healthy female twins, found that those whose dietary habits included plenty of fruit and vegetables, “particularly alliums such as garlic,” had fewer signs of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
Potentially a powerful antibiotic
Diallyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, according to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
The Campylobacter bacterium is one of the most common causes of intestinal infections.
Senior author, Dr. Xiaonan Lu, from Washington State University, said, “This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply.”
Diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic oil, helps protect the heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine found. They also believe diallyl trisulfide could be used as a treatment for heart failure.
Hydrogen sulfide gas has been shown to protect the heart from damage.
However, it is a volatile compound and difficult to deliver as therapy.
Because of this, the scientists decided to focus on diallyl trisulfide, a garlic oil component, as a safer way to deliver the benefits of hydrogen sulfide to the heart.
In experiments using laboratory mice, the team found that, after a heart attack, the mice that had received diallyl sulfide had 61 percent less heart damage in the area at risk, compared with the untreated mice.
In another study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists found that garlic oil may help protect diabetes patients from cardiomyopathy.
Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of death among diabetes patients. It is a chronic disease of the myocardium (heart muscle), which is abnormally thickened, enlarged, and/or stiffened.
The team fed diabetic laboratory rats either garlic oil or corn oil. Those fed garlic oil experienced significantly more changes associated with protection against heart damage, compared with the animals that were fed corn oil.
The study authors wrote, “In conclusion, garlic oil possesses significant potential for protecting hearts from diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy.”
Human studies will need to be performed to confirm the results of this study.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure
Researchers at Ankara University investigated the effects of garlic extract supplementation on the blood lipid (fat) profile of patients with high blood cholesterol. Their study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The study involved 23 volunteers, all with high cholesterol; 13 of them also had high blood pressure. They were divided into two groups:
The high-cholesterol normotensive group (normal blood pressure).
The high-cholesterol hypertensive group (high blood pressure).
They took garlic extract supplements for 4 months and were regularly checked for blood lipid parameters, as well as kidney and liver function.
At the end of the 4 months, the researchers concluded “…garlic extract supplementation improves blood lipid profile, strengthens blood antioxidant potential, and causes significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressures. It also leads to a decrease in the level of oxidation product (MDA) in the blood samples, which demonstrates reduced oxidation reactions in the body.”
In other words, the garlic extract supplements reduced high cholesterol levels, and also blood pressure in the patients with hypertension. The scientists added that theirs was a small study – more work needs to be carried out.
Doctors at the Department of Urology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing, China, carried out a study evaluating the relationship between Allium vegetable consumption and prostate cancer risk.
They gathered and analyzed published studies up to May 2013 and reported their findings in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.
The study authors concluded, “Allium vegetables, especially garlic intake, are related to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.”
The team also commented that because there are not many relevant studies, further well-designed prospective studies should be carried out to confirm their findings.
Alcohol-induced liver injury
Alcohol-induced liver injury is caused by the long-term over-consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Scientists at the Institute of Toxicology, School of Public Health, Shandong University, China, wanted to determine whether diallyl disulfide (DADS), a garlic-derived organosulfur compound, might have protective effects against ethanol-induced oxidative stress.
Their study was published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta.
The researchers concluded that DADS might help protect against ethanol-induced liver injury.
Preterm (premature) delivery
Microbial infections during pregnancy raise a woman’s risk of preterm delivery. Scientists at the Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, studied what impact foods might have on antimicrobial infections and preterm delivery risk.
The study and its findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Ronny Myhre and colleagues concentrated on the effects of Alliums and dried fruits, because a literature search had identified these two foods as showing the greatest promise for reducing preterm delivery risk.
The team investigated the intake of dried fruit and Alliums among 18,888 women in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort, of whom 5 percent (950) underwent spontaneous PTD (preterm delivery).
The study authors concluded, “Intake of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic compounds may be of importance to reduce the risk of spontaneous PTD. In particular, garlic was associated with overall lower risk of spontaneous PTD.”
Garlic and the common cold
A team of researchers from St. Joseph Family Medicine Residency, Indiana, carried out a study titled “Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults,” published in American Family Physician.
They reported that “Prophylactic use of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on duration of symptoms.” Prophylactic use means using it regularly to prevent disease.
Though there is some research to suggest that raw garlic has the most benefits, other studies have looked at overall allium intake, both raw and cooked, and have found benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy garlic in a variety of ways to reap its advantages.
Fri 18 August 2017 By Christian Nordqvist Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
Taking extra vitamin D can protect against colds, flu and other respiratory infections, said a study Thursday which reopened a debate on the usefulness of over-the-counter supplements.
A review of 25 clinical trials in 14 countries, some with conflicting results, yielded “the first definitive evidence” of a link between vitamin D and flu prevention, researchers claimed in The BMJ medical journal.
The effects were strongest for people with very low levels of the nutrient which is found in some foods and can be synthesised by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Many people, especially in grey, cloudy climes, do not have enough vitamin D.
Scientific studies over the years have delivered contradictory conclusions on the topic.
Some have shown that low levels of the vitamin increase the risk of bone fractures, heart disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and death.
Others said there is no evidence of a link to disease risk.
For the new study, researchers from the Queen Mary University of London conducted the biggest-ever survey of trials involving nearly 11,000 people.
Vitamin D is found in some foods and can be synthesized
by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light.
And they found clues as to why supplements seem to work in some trials but not in others.
“The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely-spaced doses,” lead researcher Adrian Martineau said in a statement.
Vitamin D is thought to protect against respiratory infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia, by boosting levels of antibiotic-like peptides in the lungs, said the team.
This fits with an observation that colds and flu are more common in winter and spring, when vitamin D levels are lowest.
It may also explain why vitamin D seems to protect against asthma attacks, they said.
In an editorial published with the study, experts Mark Bolland and Alison Avenell said it should be viewed as a hypothesis in need of scientific confirmation.
Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, shared their caution.
“This study does not provide sufficient evidence to support recommending vitamin D for reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections,” he said via the Science Media Centre in London.
Other observers were more optimistic.
The case for universal vitamin D supplements, or food fortification, “is now undeniable,” concluded Benjamin Jacobs of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
Natural preventatives and some common sense will keep you from getting sick — or staying that way for long.
It’s a double-whammy: getting sick during the winter combines feeling crummy with many people’s less-than-favorite time of year. And if you do have to go outside when you have a cold, you’re probably going to be even more uncomfortable.
Getting sick at least once during the winter is, arguably, inevitable. With more and more of us crowded onto planes, buses, trains and offices, the likelihood of contracting a virus is high. But the suggestions below can help you shorten the length of a cold, avoid a repeat or avoid a worsening (a cold-related cough that turns into bronchitis, for example).
Sleep: If you need a concrete reason to turn off the tube or close the computer and get to bed (beyond that it’s “good for you”) then consider this: Dr. Diwakar Balachandran, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston told WebMD, “A lot of studies show our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived, and inflammatory cytokines go up. … This could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.” And naps count! If you can’t get all your zzz’s in at night, consider a midday snooze — even 20 minutes can make a difference.
Vitamin C: While some physicians say that vitamin C has a negligible effect on a cold’s duration, there are plenty of studies (and anecdotal evidence) that regular doses of ascorbic or calcium ascorbate can affect a cold’s strength, and may even prevent them by supporting the body’s immune response. Vitamin C is inexpensive, and it’s practically impossible to overdose on the stuff, so it’s not a big risk to work it into your winter routine. Chewable vitamins and drink mixes like Emergen-C make it easy to incorporate this into your meals or snacks.
Echinacea and Goldenseal: The medical jury is still out on whether these two long-used immune-boosting herbs actually help control the duration and intensity of colds (there are studies that go both ways), but natural health practitioners swear by them. They are most effective when used at the first signs of illness, not once you are already sick. Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications (herbs can interact with some of them), but if kept on hand, a liquid tincture — the capsule forms of these herbs are thought by many to be less effective — taken when you have that “uh oh, I feel like I’m coming down with something” feeling might help keep your illness at bay, or be much milder.
Relaxation and stress reduction: Stress is known immune suppressant, so the more often you are stressed out, the less energy your body has to fight disease. Yoga, qigong, tai chi and meditation — or even a night in with the TV and computer off and just a good book and a cup of tea can help your body take the energy it needs to fight off disease.
Exercise: Also fairly well documented is the connection between a strong immune system and regular, heart-pumping exercise. Walking is great, but if you can, make part of your walk brisk. Participation in extreme sports and pushing yourself beyond your limits actually has an immune-damping effect, so the idea here is moderation.
Teetotaling: It’s boring but true: alcohol and other drugs decrease immunity. It’s no coincidence that it’s this time of year, when we are encouraged to indulge the most, that we tend to get sick. A great tactic is to say yes to a glass of wine or a cocktail — but sip it slowly and savor it. You’ll be good to drive, avoid illness and keep the pounds off, too. Or choose just one night to have “too many” drinks — like Christmas Eve or New Year’s, instead of drinking away Thanksgiving through Jan 1.
The common cold season is here, and if you have children, you will likely feel their suffering from these annoying upper respiratory tract viral infections. Children experience more colds, about six to 10 annually, than adults. With each cold producing symptoms of nasal congestion, runny nose, cough and mild fever lasting up to seven to 10 days, it may seem that children are nearly continuously sick.
Parents certainly want their ill children to feel better, and they, naturally, want to help. A frequent solution is over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which are heavily advertised to treat many maladies, including colds. A stroll down your local pharmacy OTC drug aisle will highlight the numerous OTC drug products available for adults and children.
It is tempting to buy one or more of these products to help your child. However, for children younger than 12 years of age, it is best not to use commonly advertised OTC cough and cold drug products. These products lack supportive clinical study efficacy and safety data, an issue I’ve studied as a professor of pharmacy practice.
Children are not just small adults
When treating children with OTC or prescription drugs, it is important to understand that young children differ significantly from the adult population with respect to drug efficacy and adverse effects.
Over the past 30 years, we have learned much more about pediatric pharmacology and drug action and behavior, known as pharmacokinetics, and differences compared to adults. Prior to this, and even today to some extent, health care professionals assumed that drugs functioned and behaved similarly in children as in adults.
Based on this assumption, health practitioners often only reduced the amount of a drug to a child based on a proportion of the child’s body weight to an adult. For example, a provider would prescribe 50 percent of an adult drug dose for a child with 50 percent body weight of an adult. The efficacy of OTC cough and cold product active ingredient, as demonstrated in adult studies, was assumed to be similar in children.
However, we have learned, and are continuing to learn, that this strategy is not accurate and can be dangerous. Most drugs are not specifically studied and evaluated in children prior to their labeling by the FDA and availability to the public.
A safe and effective drug dose and dose schedule (how often a drug dose is given) is derived from these formal studies and evaluations. But without these formal studies, pediatric-specific drug pharmacology is not accurately evaluated and determined. In addition, a physician can legally prescribe any drug for a child, even if there aren’t data supporting its efficacy and safety in children.
OTC drugs regulated differently than Rx drugs
FDA regulation of OTC drug products differs from prescription drug regulation. Active ingredients in OTC drug products are evaluated and approved by therapeutic category, such as the cough and cold therapeutic category. In a major undertaking begun in 1972, the FDA has been reviewing OTC drug product categories for safety and efficacy, and it continues to do so.
Pediatric OTC cough and cold products have seen significant regulatory changes in recent years. In 2007, several health care experts petitioned the FDA to carefully review pediatric efficacy and safety data of OTC cough and cold products, requesting that these products be specifically labeled not for use in children younger than six years of age.
In 2008, the FDA recommended that OTC cough and cold products not be given to children younger than two years old. The trade group representing OTC drug product manufacturers, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, additionally announced that these products would be labeled “not for use” in children younger than four years old. The FDA agreed, and this remains the current status of pediatric age labeling for OTC cough and cold products.
In addition, reviews of the medical literature indicates that OTC drug ingredients are actually ineffective in reducing cold symptoms in children. OTC cough and cold products can be dangerous to use as well, with more than 100 deaths of infants and young children described in published reports where these products were the sole cause or important contributive causes.
Although several doses of pediatric OTC cough/cold products are unlikely to be toxic, these reports have described scenarios where the products were used inappropriately, by administration of doses too large, doses given too frequently, measurement of liquid doses inaccurately (too much) or administration of similar active ingredient drugs given from numerous OTC products resulting in accumulative large doses.
These mistakes were easily made by parents, considering the difficulty in accurately measuring out small liquid doses and a desire for the drugs to help (more is better).
A word of caution regarding codeine
Recent studies and recommendations have significantly altered our use of another drug historically used to treat cough in children – codeine. It is an opioid, and it is still available over the counter in some cough medicines in some states. It is available in all states as prescription products.
We have learned in recent years that codeine is metabolized differently from subject to subject. Codeine alone has very little useful pharmacologic activity, but the liver chemically alters it into its active form, morphine, and another chemical. Morphine is dangerous, as it suppresses breathing. It must be used cautiously even in adults.
For many years, codeine has been used for treating pain and cough in children and adults. Recent evaluations, however, have determined that its clinical efficacy for these uses is inferior to other available drugs. We have learned that the amount of morphine produced from codeine liver metabolism can vary widely from person to person, a result of genetic differences.
Some individuals may convert codeine to a lot of morphine, while others may convert codeine to much less morphine. Evidence has accumulated over the past 10 years demonstrating that codeine can produce a significant decrease in breathing in some infants and children.
More than 20 cases of fatal respiratory depression have been documented in infants and children. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a warning on the dangers of administering codeine to infants and children, recommending that its use for all purposes in children, including cough and pain, be limited or stopped.
Try these remedies instead
When your child next suffers from a cold, instead of reaching for an OTC cough and cold product, use an OTC nasal saline drop or spray product to help with nasal congestion. You can also run a cold air humidifier in his or her room at night to additionally help loosen nasal congestion. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given as needed for fever.
If your child is coughing enough to be uncomfortable or to prevent nighttime sleep, try giving honey, so long as he or she is one or older. Honey has been recently shown by several clinical studies to be an effective cough suppressant, and is likely to be much safer than codeine and OTC cough and cold products.
These therapies have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When using these treatments in infants and young children, it is always wise to speak with your child’s pediatrician first, as several more serious illnesses may initially produce symptoms similar to those of a common cold.
November 23, 2016 Edward Bell Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Drake University
In this day and age, you would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the powerful mind-body connection. For example, we know that exercise helps alleviate depression, yoga is great for stress management, eating vegetables and other superfoods can make you happier and the way you walk can boost your mood. So, for your overall mental health, you should definitely be exercising, eating right and engaging in other forms of self-care.
But did you know that the reverse is also true? Your moods and overall mindset have a measurable effect on your body and its functioning. Here are four of the most fascinating scientific findings about how your outlook on life affects your health.
1. Your perception of stress affects its actual impact on your body.
We have all heard about the negative effects of stress on our bodies. However, researchers out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison discovered that our views about stress may actually play a bigger role in its negative effects than the stress itself. In the study, they tracked 30,000 American adults for eight years, and found that people with a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying — but only if they believed stress was harmful. On the other hand, those who had a lot of stress, but didn’t see it as harmful, did not have this increased risk.
2. Your level of life-satisfaction may affect bone density.
A study out of Finland followed women over the age of 60 for 10 years, and asked them to report on their level of life satisfaction. The researchers found that while all women experienced an average 4% decrease in bone density during the duration of the study, there was a 52% difference in bone density loss between those who reported the highest levels of satisfaction versus the lowest levels. In addition, for those whose life satisfaction decreased during the 10 years, their bone density decreased 85% more than those whose satisfaction increased.
3. Positive thinking can increase your immunity to the common cold.
In another study, researchers interviewed participants over three weeks to assess the degree to which they had a positive emotional style. Then, subjects were given a nasal spray of rhinovirus (the cold germ) to see how their bodies would respond. Researchers found that those who had a positive emotional outlook were three times less likely to get a cold than those who had low levels of positive emotions. Interestingly, in a later study, these same researchers found that high levels of stress make it more difficult for the body to regulate the inflammatory response.
4. Optimism is literally good for your heart.
There is a wealth of research about the positive link between optimism and heart health. For example, cultivating optimism and hopefulness is linked to decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, patients who had heart attacks and were optimistic about their treatment were more likely to be alive 15 years later as compared to those who were less optimistic and hopeful (even with the same severity of illness).
Also, in a recent study of more than 5,000 adults, researchers found that the most optimistic individuals are twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health markers (as measured by a variety of factors, including blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels and others) compared to those who are pessimistic.
These findings are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this growing field of research, but they point to the importance of making sure not to just focus on nutrition and exercise as part of your self-care regimen. To enjoy optimal health, it’s essential to develop an optimistic outlook and engage in happiness-boosting activities each and every day. Your mind and your body will thank you.
Working out could help us fight off colds and other infections, according to a timely new study. The study, which found that regular exercise strengthens the body’s immune system in part by repeatedly stressing it, was conducted in animals. But the results most likely apply to people, the researchers say, and could offer further incentive for us to remain physically active this winter.
In broad terms, our immune system reacts to invading microbes through a variety of cells. Some of these cells don’t directly combat the infection, but instead promote the development of inflammation. When we think of inflammation, we usually think of fever, swelling and redness. But inflammation can also be a good thing, helping the body to heal itself as it fights invading microbes.
The problem is that inflammation can easily get out of hand. If the inflammatory response to an infection or injury is too robust or indiscriminate, the inflammation can ultimately cause more tissue damage and lingering health problems than it prevents.
Scientists have long tried to determine why inflammation sometimes grows rampant in the body. One thing they’ve noticed is that fat cells are particularly adept at producing substances that promote inflammation, in part as a response to messages from the immune system.
But fat cells also often produce inflammatory substances in greater amounts than needed to fight germs, in some cases even when there is no actual infection. As a result, past studies have found, obesity in animals and people can lead to elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body and, interestingly, a weaker overall immune response to an infection or illness.
Because of these links between fat cells and the immune response, scientists at Chosun University in Gwangju, South Korea, and other institutions recently began to consider whether exercise might affect the body’s response to germs. Among the many effects of physical activity, exercise generally reduces the amount of fat in the body and also alters levels of inflammation.
So for the new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, they gathered 28 average-weight male laboratory mice and tested their blood and fat cells for markers of inflammation and other immune cells. They then had half of the mice begin a swimming regimen, during which the animals paddled around a warmish pool for 10 minutes, five days a week, for three weeks.
Mice aren’t natural or eager swimmers and tend to thrash in the water, so the exercise was moderately strenuous for them, the equivalent of what 30 minutes or so of jogging might be for us.
The other mice remained sedentary.
Throughout the three weeks, the scientists monitored all of the animals’ levels of inflammation and what was happening, if anything, to their fat cells.
As expected, the swimmers showed increases in markers of inflammation, especially in their muscles, as their bodies worked to heal the slight tissue damage that occurs during regular exercise. Over all, they displayed higher levels of inflammation than the unexercised animals. Meanwhile, their fat cells were shrinking in size.
After three weeks, to test the animals’ immune response, half of the swimmers and half of the inactive mice were inoculated with Staphylococcus germs. In both mice and people, these germs cause skin infections and serious lung problems that resemble pneumonia.
Both the mice that had exercised and those that had remained sedentary began to grow ill from the Staph infections. But the differences in the animals’ immune responses proved to be considerable, the scientists found.
Inflammation rapidly blossomed in the sedentary, infected animals, as their immune systems pumped out high numbers of cells that promote inflammation. Many of these cells migrated to the animals’ lungs, suggesting that excessive inflammation was taking hold there.
Meanwhile, the infected swimmers had much lower levels of these pro-inflammatory cells, lower even than in the uninfected swimmers. The numbers of these cells in their lungs were particularly low. At the same time, the sickening swimmers were producing far more of a potent type of antimicrobial immune cell that, like internal Purell, directly kills germs, especially in their lungs.
Over all, the infected swimmers did not become as sick as the infected sedentary mice. They also experienced much less lung damage.
Precisely how swimming had changed these animals’ immune systems remains somewhat unclear. But, said Yoonkyung Park, a professor of biomedical science at Chosun University who oversaw the new study, the exercise seemed to have had two signal effects.
Most obviously, it reduced fatness, which, in turn, lessened the often-excessive levels of pro-inflammatory substances produced by fat cells.
At the same time, however, the workouts caused small amounts of continuous tissue damage and inflammation. This process, the researchers said, seems to have familiarized the animals’ bodies with trauma and how best to initiate healing.
The swimmers, in effect, appeared to have developed a more refined and effective immune response. Their immune systems appear to have learned to produce a beneficial amount of inflammation, but not too much. So when germs invaded, the system could rely less on indiscriminate, blunt-force inflammation and instead turn to targeted, antimicrobial killers.
Of course, as we all know, rodents are not people.
But Dr. Park believes that the effects are likely to be similar in people. “We strongly believe that long-term, regular exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism,” he said, including, thankfully, “against viral infections such as colds and the flu.”
Follow these simple tips to avoid becoming a sniffly, snotty, glassy-eyed mess when cold season rolls around
BY ALEXA TUCKER Friday, October 9, 2015
Getting a cold sucks, but it’s not inevitable. And while 33 million diagnoses each year—according to a CDC report—might suggest otherwise, we found four simple strategies that can help you escape cold season unscathed.
But you have to be diligent. And by diligent, we mean you can’t just read this and sort of follow the advice. You have to stick to it. Because the moment you let up is when colds take hold. (You’ll probably have to get a little lucky, too.)
1. Stop Touching Your Face
This tip may seem obvious, but it’ll be tough to follow through. That’s because people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times every hour, a 2012 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases found.
And that’s a problem, because bringing your hands to your face can spike your cold risk. Workers who report sometimes touching their nose or eyes with their fingers were 41 percent more likely to come down with an upper respiratory infection than those who keep their hands off, according to researchers in Japan.
While you can catch the common cold through germ droplets in the air, the most efficient form of transmission for that particular infection is actually hand contact with secretions that contain the virus, the researchers say. So if your hands touch a surface with the virus on it, and then you touch your face, you can easily introduce the bug into your body.
If you can’t help touching your face, just make sure your digits are clean. That means scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in your head), making sure to hit the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under the nails, the CDC says.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Skimping on shut eye can leave you susceptible. People who sleep fewer than six hours a night are four times as likely to catch a cold as those who log seven hours or more, a study published in the journal Sleep found.
This may be because sleep loss messes with certain types of immune cells called B and T cells, which are critical in protecting us from viruses, says study coauthor Aric Prather, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at University of California San Francisco.
“Additionally, sleep loss is related to an increase in inflammation, which is believed to play a role in cold symptom severity,” he adds.
3. Hit The Gym
You should keep up your workout routine when the temperature drops. The reason: People who exercise five or more days a week take up to 46 percent fewer sick days than those who exercise one day or less a week, according to a study from Appalachian State University.
When you exercise, your blood flow and body temperature increase, and your muscles contract. These factors signal your body to recruit important disease-fighting cells that are stored in your lymphoid tissues.
These cells are then recirculated throughout your system, says lead researcher David Nieman, Dr.P.H. This allows your body to detect—and kill off—potential disease-causing intruders.
To jack up your immune system, Nieman says near-daily cardio of 30 to 60 minutes a session should do the trick. (He notes that resistance training can work, too, but says it should be total-body training, since it appears to be more effective in immune-cell recruitment than routines that target one or two body parts.)
4. Hug It Out
Preventing a cold may truly be in your own hands. Stressed-out people who were more likely to have hugged within the past day are better able to fight off the virus than those who are more hands-off, a study in the journal Psychological Science found.
“Hugging is a physical expression of social support, and when people feel they are supported, they also feel they are better able to handle stress,” says study co-author Denise Janicki-Deverts, Ph.D., a research psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.
And that’s important, because stress itself has been connected to increased cold risk, possibly because it may spark the release of certain hormones that can wreak havoc on your immunity, says Janicki-Deverts.
For me, the first sign of autumn isn’t falling leaves; it’s a miserable head cold that turns into a sinus infection that ruins the first days of crisp, cool air. It turns out I’m not alone. Seasonal sniffles are a real thing.
Does Cold Give You a Cold?
Actually, a virus gives you a cold, not outside temperature. But dropping temperatures do force you inside more, and that’s where you’re most likely to come in contact with sneezing people spreading the cold virus. In fact, the warmer the temperature, the less likely you we are to catch colds, which could lead to bronchitis and pneumonia.
“For each one degree increase in temperature, there is a two percent decline in deaths from both influenza and pneumonia,” Dr. Michael Cirgliano told Philadelphia magazine.
When temperatures drop:
The body’s natural defense mechanisms start to sputter. Cold temps can hinder circulation to your nose – a first responder to disease – and decrease the white blood cells that battle infection.
Cold viruses replicate more easily in cool weather.
Falling autumn leaves also stir up allergies to pollen and mold, which fly around the air as you rake. Allergy symptoms often are mistaken for colds.
How To Avoid Fall Sniffles
The same way you avoid winter, spring and summer sniffles.
Wash hands frequently.
If you suffer from allergies, wear a dust mask when raking leaves.
Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise to boost your immune system.
Raw honey contains traces of pollen. Eat a few tablespoons a day to desensitize your body to pollen and reduce allergy symptoms.
Some studies have shown that eating yogurt with probiotics can boost your immune system to fend off colds and to shorten their duration if you do catch one.
Keep hard and soft surfaces clean, which will kill bacteria and viruses that land there.
Don’t Worry; Be Happy
Stress is a pox on immune systems, and autumn is often a stressful time when classes resume, prep for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas begins and work projects gear up after everyone returns from summer vaycay. During autumn, try hard to reduce stress (but don’t stress about it).
Make time for the things, activities and people that bring you joy. Joy is an antidote to stress.
Pay attention to relaxing by taking a yoga class, drawing a hot bath or learning to meditate.
Delegate to reduce large numbers of stress-causing tasks.