Health Features

Fighting Cold & Flu

There is no cure for the flu or common cold. Does that mean we have to be resigned to aches and pains, coughing, sneezing, fever and congestion every winter? Absolutely not! SSM Health family medicine practitioner Dr. Peter Montgomery says we can take steps to alleviate symptoms and get better faster—and yes, some of this advice is applicable to coping with COVID-19.

it’s as easy as abc 
Montgomery recommends that his patients follow these simple guidelines for fighting cold and flu symptoms.

A is for … aspirin
Aspirin can help alleviate aches and pains and reduces fever. “It also has an anti-clotting property, so it’s important for patients who may be prone to blood clots after being inactive for an extended period of time,” Montgomery adds.

B is for … breathe deep
Taking a deep breath can help with blood circulation. Montgomery recommends making sure to get up and move regularly even when sick. “Set a timer every hour and go up and down the stairs to make yourself breathe deeply,” he says. “Get your rest, but don’t just be a couch potato.”

C is for … vitamin c
Studies have shown that vitamin C can reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Montgomery suggests getting it from fruits and vegetables, but supplements are fine if whole foods aren’t an option. “It’s a very
short-lived chemical, so make sure you get vitamin C with breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he adds.

D is for … vitamin d
Vitamin D can improve your immune system, and studies have shown that it can help protect against acute respiratory infections. Montgomery says that adults with higher levels of the vitamin have improved outcomes with COVID-19. “One the major problems in severe cases of COVID-19 is an overreaction of the immune system,” he explains. “Vitamin D helps regulate that response so things don’t become inflamed.”

avoid this
According to Montgomery, don’t make these part of your recovery plan.

  • Just juice: A glass of orange juice may seem like a great way to rehydrate and get some vitamin C, but Montgomery says it actually cuts out fiber, which is where all the nutrients are in fruit. “You’re not getting the full benefit,” he notes.
  • Alcohol: A cocktail, glass of wine or beer may give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, but that’s just vasodilation increasing the volume of blood being brought to the skin’s surface. Alcohol is dehydrating, may not mix well with cold and flu medicine, worsens congestion and could weaken your immune system.
  • Bone broth: While bone broth may be a food trend thanks to the paleo diet, Montgomery recommends skipping it. “People are boiling bones for extra nutrients, but animal bones also contain lead,” he says. “I especially would advise against giving it to children. Growing brains and nervous systems are highly susceptible to lead toxicity, and there often are not clear-cut signs until the damage is done.”

combat congestion 
Even without a cold, a stuffy nose can be a common occurrence in winter. Here are some ways you can clear your sinuses and breathe easy.

  • Hot liquids: “The heat of soup or a hot beverage increases blood flow and thins mucus,” Montgomery explains. As a bonus, hot liquids help prevent dehydration and can soothe the inflamed membranes in your nose and throat.
  • Humidifier: “The air is dryer in winter, and indoor heaters just exacerbate the problem,” Montgomery says. “That essentially turns your nasal secretions into glue and closes things off. A humidifier will help, and it’s also beneficial if you are prone to nosebleeds.”
  • Saline solutions: Montgomery says increasing moisture in the nasal passage is another way to thin mucus, making saline solutions and nasal sprays a good option for lessening congestion. He suggests making flushing your nose a part of your nightly routine.