I've fallen prey to it myself, feeling a bit off, not quite knowing what's wrong but just not feeling myself. Then the slow dawning that I'm feeling very tired and that I'm coughing more than usual, and the realisation that, actually, I've been ignoring my red flag which is always that it's that bit harder to get out of bed in the morning. Yes, I've been taking some preventative measures since the start of winter but not been getting enough rest, not been saying 'no' when I sometimes needed to.
So, here I've been for the past week, doing my best to recover from a chest infection. Prone to chesty things all my life, I've had to take extra care since having a bout of pneumonia and septicaemia some years back. And we have research which shows that the mucous membranes can be damaged by even one dose of a bad cold infection.
So, given that I hadn't been taking quite enough care prior to succumbing to this dose, what have I been doing to get back on track? Beginning with resting a bit more - difficult for one who enjoys politics to resist the best political programmes which always seem to be on late at night! And, under pressure from my loving family, I've given in and gone to the doctor who prescribed an antibiotic for the chest infection.
Thought not a fan of the antibiotic, I am deeply grateful they are there when I really need them. And, as all of us who enjoy natural remedies know, while the antibiotic hopefully wipes out the bacterial infection, it also kills some of our good bacteria. Replacing these with pre- and probiotics is important, and the trick is simply to take these between (not at the same time as) the antibiotics. And, while many are aware of the need for the probiotic, these work best when taken with a prebiotic, something like Molkosan which has prebiotic action in our digestive tract, thus allowing the probiotic to cling on and do its very valuable work.
Secondly, I've been taking a magic mix of Echinaforce, Bronchoforce and Plantago, which I am finding really helpful. Echinaforce is a wonderful anti-viral, which strengthens the immune system and damps down the inflammatory reaction to the virus. Bronchoforce is a combination of Ivy, Thyme and Liquorice which helps expel that unhelpful mucus from the lungs. Meanwhile, the great herb Plantago has a traditional use for clearing the Eustachian tubes, thus relieving pressure on the sinuses and (apologies for being graphic here) bringing unpleasant fluids forward rather than backward and back down onto the chest again.
Of course, I'm supporting the wonderful work of the herbs with some vitamin C and D, both of which are helpful in circumstances such as lying on the couch helping oneself get back to normal.
As public transport is my normal means of travel nowadays, I always carry Echinaforce Throat Spray and Dr. Bronner's hand spray with me. Research shows that the surfaces on planes, boats, trains and buses are contaminated with viral and other unhelpful/unhealthy matter. And then there are the other passengers; and for the past few months there's been a whole lot of coughing, sneezing and spluttering going on everywhere, so the cough spray and the hand sanitiser are my safety/comfort blankets when out and about.
We know the speed of a sneeze is 100mph, that the droplets hang in the air for around 20 minutes, and that a virus can live for 17 days on bank notes. So, taking responsibility for our own health and well-being is very important. Having said all that, sometimes we just come down with something.
Good practice tips for the cold and flu season
So, to summarise, good practice in the cold and flu season could usefully include the following:
- Wash hands regularly and carry and use a hand sanitiser.
- Eat and drink warming foods such as soups and stews with some nice warming ginger added to the mix.
- Have organic lemons and honey to hand for use if needed.
- Get plenty of rest, at least eight hours a night. New research shows that taking extra rest prior to stressful events helps in keeping the mind sharp and in feeling less exhausted.
- Antibiotics don't work for colds or flu (viral infections) but Echinacea does, being antiviral , and research shows that taking it longer term can help a cold or flu not to turn into something more serious.
- Stay tuned in to your body: it knows what's best – rest, herbs, healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, hot drinks. It's the very best way to stay healthy.
- Don't let a cold or flu linger – go to the doctor if you need to do so.
- Be thankful for the good health we are blessed with most of the time, and be grateful for the enforced rest which your body truly needs.
 Sharma M et al. Antiviral Research 2009; 83: 165-170
 Schapowal A. Schweiz Z Ganzheitsmed 2011; 23: 40-44