Flu season is upon us again
Colds, Influenzas and Enterovirus EV-D68
There has been a strong focus centered on the Ebola Virus and the various measures our most vulnerable front line health workers are taking; however, we should also expand our focus onto other viruses like the common cold, influenza, and the Enterovirus EV-D68 that are even more transferrable and can affect us all this time of year. With the fall season upon us and winter right around the corner, let’s refresh ourselves of the many ways we can contract and prevent these common ailments.
What Causes Colds and Influenzas?
Both colds and various influenzas are caused by a wide variety of viruses (not bacteria). While the two ailments typically affect the respiratory tract, there are some differences between them.
Common symptoms of a “regular cold” include runny nose, congestion, cough, and sore throat. The symptoms of the flu tend to be far more severe, as the influenza viruses are capable of causing severe lung infection, pneumonia, and even respiratory failure. They also tend to affect the joints causing that allover achy feeling.
The most common way these viruses are spread is through hand-to-hand contact. For instance, someone with a cold blows their nose then shakes your hand or touches surfaces that you also touch.
If your immune system is operating at its peak, it should actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus without ever getting sick. If your immune system is impaired, on the other hand, they can easily take hold in your body. So, it’s important to understand that the reason you catch a cold or flu is that your immune system is impaired. It’s not an inevitable event based on exposure alone.
What Causes Enterovirus?
Enteroviruses, such as EV-D68, are related to the common cold virus and can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing, by close contact with infected people or by touching a contaminated surface. Anyone can get infected with a non-polio enterovirus. Since many infected people do not have symptoms, it is difficult to prevent the viruses from spreading.
Some people will experience the following mild symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, sneezing and coughing, skin rash, mouth blisters, and body and muscle aches.
Children and teenagers are most likely to get infected and become sick. It is important to keep a watchful eye on children with a history of asthma as they may develop symptoms such as difficulty breathing, and wheezing. They do not yet have the immunity from previous exposures to the viruses to effectively fight the infection. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against the non-polio enterovirus infections.
Some strains of non-polio enterovirus can cause hand, foot and mouth disease, a common childhood illness. Symptoms include sores in or on the mouth and on the hands and feet.
- Make sure to drink plenty of pure water. Water is essential for the optimal function of every system in your body and will help with nose stuffiness and loosening secretions. You should drink enough water so that your urine is a light, pale yellow.
- As for chicken soup, yes, it can indeed help reduce cold symptoms.
- Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. Processed, canned soups won’t work as well as the homemade version. For best results, make up a fresh batch of hot and spicy soup with plenty of pepper.
- The spices will trigger a sudden release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus so it’s easier to cough up and expel.
Vitamin D deficiency, as a result of insufficient sun exposure
- It’s estimated that the average adult typically has two to four colds each year, while children may have up to a dozen. Each year, between five and 20 percent of the population also come down with flu-like illness.
- One reason for the widespread prevalence of colds and the flu may be that vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in Canada, especially during the winter months when cold and flu viruses are at their peak. Research has confirmed that “catching” colds and flu may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.
Not getting enough rest
- Get plenty of high-quality sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, or enough restorative sleep, you’ll be at increased risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune system is also the most effective when you’re not sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the quicker you’ll recover.
- Regular exercise is a crucial strategy for increasing your resistance to illness. There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by boosting your immune system. In fact, one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50 percent.
- And, in the event they did catch a cold, their symptoms were much less severe than among those who did not exercise.
- Exercise likely cuts your risk of colds so significantly because it triggers a rise in immune system cells that can attack any potential invaders. Each time you exercise you can benefit from this boost to your immune system. Ideally, establish a regular fitness program now to help you ward off colds and other illness.
- Emotional stressors can also predispose you to an infection while making cold symptoms worse. Finding ways to manage daily stress as well as your reactions to circumstances beyond your control will contribute to a strong and resilient immune system.
Apply these simple steps to your daily routine
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- When in doubt seek medical treatment