Hand washing, airing, strengthening the immune system – everyone knows how to prevent colds. But why are we bedridden every year? Confronting cold viruses is unavoidable, and the risk of infection is high. It is crucial to take the right measures when the first symptoms appear. Why is this so hard? We often don’t hear what our bodies tell us.
“And suddenly it hit me – practically overnight.” We often hear this remark when it comes to colds. Most of the time, however, our body tells us earlier if something is wrong. It doesn’t always have to be the typical itchy throat or tingling sensation in the nose. Often we are simply tired and fatigued while longing for quiet, warmth and comfort.
Listening to signals from the body
Normally, most people don’t hear the body’s signals. No wonder: On the one hand, we are constantly busy and give ourselves hardly any space to listen inside ourselves. On the other hand, we have trained ourselves to be strong, productive and efficient. The result is that we get hit even harder later. But our body sends us signals with good reason. It communicates constantly with us to tell us what it needs to be in balance and stay healthy. Those who learn to listen to the signals and messages and react accordingly will quickly realise how good it is to be more in tune with their bodies. The body’s own wisdom quickly becomes your most important resource for more health, life energy and balance.
Two ways to get infected
You can do a lot at the first signs of a cold. If you take action in time, you have a good chance of preventing the onset or at least making it less serious or making it go away more quickly. It is almost impossible to avoid pathogens in winter. Life takes place inside, where people cram into buses and trains, and every second person has a cold. In addition, offices are rarely ventilated, and the dry heating air irritates the mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to infections. The pathogens enter your body in two main ways: either through the air when those suffering from a cold cough or sneeze (droplet transmission) or through objects such as hand railings and door handles (indirect contact transmission).
Identifying and acting on signs
The pathogens first reach the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat. You typically feel the first immune reactions of the body through itching in the throat or a tingling sensation in the nose. The body tries to get rid of the pathogens by sneezing and coughing. But if you simply feel fatigued, cold, irritable or have a headache, this could also be the first sign of a cold or at least mean that your body is more susceptible to getting infected. The same applies here: Listen to the messages and follow their demands. Take a hot bath, enjoy a quiet evening on the sofa or cook a warming, nourishing soup.
Fast intervention – the best SOS measures:
With these measures, you can stop the cold before it manifests further.
- Rest and sleep: Mobilise the immune system
Bed rest and sleep are still the number one measures for all kinds of infections. Take it easy and try to sleep a lot. Your body now needs all energies to fight the invading pathogens. Your immune system works at its peak during the night. Nothing mobilises the body’s defences better than a night of good sleep and a day in bed. Often it is even possible to avert the cold before it breaks out. Don’t hold yourself back from taking sick leave for a day. This can often prevent you from being absent for a longer period of time, which also benefits your employer.
- Herbal teas: Replenish your liquids and remove mucous secretions
When a cold is approaching, it is especially important to drink a lot. Herbal teas are two-fold effective here. They supply the body with fluid and thus support its defensive function. This liquefies the mucous secretions of the respiratory tract which can then remove the pathogens more quickly. On the other hand, different herbal teas have specific effects. For the early phase, in which it is still possible to handle the cold, it is best to take a tea with fresh ginger and lemon, which supports the immune system (see prescription below Immune Booster Drink) (link on the page below).
- Salt rinsing: Disinfect nose and throat
The most comfortable way to disinfect your nose and get rid of mucus is to use a nasal-rinsing device. You can get this from your pharmacy, for instance. To rinse the throat, put a pinch of salt in a glass of lukewarm water and gargle it. If you don’t have a nasal-rinsing device at hand, you can simply draw the salty water from a bowl into your nose.
- Garlic: Natural antibiotic
Forget your concern about smelling of garlic for a moment. Allicin and the resulting sulphur compounds are the best means of killing viruses and bacteria. Raw garlic thus acts like a natural antibiotic. You don’t necessarily have to eat it straight. Press-out a bulb, add salt and olive oil and eat it with some bread. Eat slowly and chew them thoroughly to ease your digestion as much as possible. The digestive processes consume a lot of energy, which you now need for your immune system. This is also the reason why you lose your appetite when you’re sick.
If you catch a cold despite lots of sleep, lots of tea and an extra portion of garlic, you can still strongly influence its course and alleviate the symptoms. To fight runny nose, coughs and sore throats, you don’t necessarily need medication. These household remedies have proven themselves for a good reason to this day:
Fighting symptoms naturally
Chicken soup inhibits inflammation: It is the best-known household remedy for colds and flu. The amino acid cysteine contained in chicken meat has anti-inflammatory and decongestant effects on the mucous membranes. The mucus can drain off more quickly, and the nose becomes clear again. Chicken soup also strengthens the immune system with a lot of zinc.
Onion has a decongestant effect: Whether onion juice or onion vapours – the sulphides and vitamin C in the onion strengthen the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Against coughing: Mince the onion, add sugar and cover. After one hour skim off the resulting juice and drink it. Also inhaled onion vapours decongest the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Place the chopped onion in a bowl at head level.
Eucalyptus and mint oil for runny noses: The oils dissolve mucus and help to get rid of runny nose faster. Put a drop of eucalyptus or mint oil in a hot water bath and breathe in and out with a towel over your head for about 10 minutes. The steam distributes the active ingredients optimally in the respiratory tract.
Thyme soothes coughs: Thyme soothes the irritation of the throat as a tea infusion. Once the cough is softened, the body can better remove the mucous, and the cold can begin to heal. Use either fresh thyme or a tea blend.
Prevention: Food, exercise, sleep
Three factors are decisive in order to strengthen your immune system: Food, sleep and exercise. Endurance sport, in particular, increases the activity of certain immune cells in the body. This doesn’t have to be high-intensity training. The important thing is to move regularly, especially outdoors with fresh air. A restful sleep is also important. The immune system needs rest to regenerate and, e.g., form white blood cells that fend off pathogens. If you have a constant cold and one infection follows the next, it could well be that your body is in a chronic inflammatory state. Read here what you can do about it and which foods you can use to strengthen your immune system: Chronic inflammation II – Energy recovery
Learning to listen inside yourself
Not only during the cold season: Learn to listen to your body’s signals again. Whether yoga, meditation or simple breathing exercises, you will find the right way to harmonise with your body and your needs.
Take five minutes at least once a day to listen inside yourself. Sit or lie down comfortably and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel? Relaxed? Tense? Nervous? Balanced?
- How does my body feel? Does something hurt? Do I feel tension – in my shoulders, back or stomach?
- What do I need right now? Maybe a bath? Something yummy to eat or a chat?
Tip: Apps such as7Mind (German App) – to become more mindful in seven days or Headspace can help you to train your mindfulness.
Immune Booster Drink:
This drink not only helps with colds and supports your immune system. It also provides a cosy inner warmth on cold winter days.
Recipe for a cup:
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp apple vinegar (organic quality)
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp honey
Add hot water to the ginger and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Add apple vinegar, lemon juice and honey. Important: Never put honey in boiling or water at a temperature above 40 °C. The high temperatures destroy the valuable enzymes in honey.