Local health experts: When it comes to staving off colds, rest is the best medicine
- on January 20, 2012
You can feel it coming: the sore throat, the stuffy nose, the coughing. Your kids, spouse and co-workers have had the dreaded winter cold and now you are coming down with it, too.
To help deter a cold, some guzzle orange juice while others swear by echinacea.
But what really works? Anything? We turned to Lawrence’s health experts to get their opinions.
Many said those same home remedies that Grandma used still hold true today: chicken soup or broth, hot bath or shower, Vick’s VapoRub. And plenty of rest; that’s No. 1.
“If you feel a cold coming on, listen to your body and take a little bit of extra rest and maybe stay home a day from work. So many of us just kind of work through it, and that doesn’t help,” said Kim Ens, a registered nurse and director of clinic services at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
She also advises eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins, and discourages people from popping pills, although she knows some people swear by echinancea and zinc.
“Some think that if they take zinc throat lozenges, it helps,” she said. “If it seems to help, then take it, but a little; don’t go overboard.”
Ens said it’s always good to talk with a pharmacist or doctor before taking herbs or over-the-counter medications because there can be damaging side effects if you have a chronic health condition, take other medications or take too much.
Pat Hubbell, pharmacist and co-owner of Sigler Pharmacy, recommends four products to his clients to help ward off colds, although he admits there’s plenty of debate about whether any of them truly help shorten or lessen a cold. They are:
• Vitamin C, 500 milligrams twice a day. “It’s just tried-and-true.”
• Zinc lozenges. “The idea behind the lozenge is that it will help reduce the replication of the virus in the throat area, thus decreasing the length of cold.”
• Echinacea, an herb that Hubbell takes himself. “I swear that I feel better.”
• Airborne, a product that claims to boost the immune system. Hubbell said it contains zinc, echinacea and other vitamins. He described it as a “plethora of goodness.”
He said these are the popular products now, but it can soon change.
“Some seasons I can’t keep certain things on the shelf, and other seasons I can. I think it has more to do with whether Dr. Oz has suggested it,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate factor. It’s like the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. If you get on that list, you are golden.”
Karen Duggan, a certified holistic nutrition coach, recently taught a class “Eating for Winter Wellness” in Lawrence.
She said, “The body is self healing and it’s better if you don’t grab cold medicines but try to use natural things to help support your body while it heals itself.”
Among her recommendations:
• Rest. “If you feel a cold coming on, take the day off, and you can kick it early. What happens if you don’t take the one day off, you end up taking more because the cold worsens.”
• Stay off sugar and dairy because they suppress the immune system like smoking and coffee.
• Bundle up, so the body can use its energy helping to heal instead of keeping warm. “That’s a message my grandmother always told me, but it’s kind of gotten lost in today’s culture,” she said. “I see people who are out and about and they’ve got a cold and they are hardly wrapped up.”
• Eat fruits, vegetables, soups and whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa.
• Drink green tea and consume garlic because they are known to build the immune system. She suggests cooking garlic and using it in soups.
Duggan said it’s helped her to think of a cold as a friend and not as an enemy, something she learned by reading “Food and Healing.”
“Don’t view a cold as a threat or something bad but as more of a loving friend that’s coming to warn us or set the imbalance in the body right,” she said.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital clinical pharmacist Becky Rutledge said there’s nothing revolutionary that’s going to help.
“Everybody I know wants to find something that works really well, but just taking time out is the most effective thing. If you can somehow find a way to sleep for 12 hours, that’s probably the most effective.”