What are some ways that I can prevent myself from getting sick with the flu or coming down with a cold in the winter months? And how does cold weather relate to getting sick? Can the cold weather really make you ill? How?
Flu or influenza is a pathological medical condition of an organism, infected with an influenza virus, a type of virus that is genetically changing on a daily basis, literally. That is the reason why a different vaccine is being prepared every year, depending on what kind of âviral genetic mixâ affected the human population the previous year.
There is no way to prevent getting the flu, but to have the yearly vaccination (âflu shotâ) from September until the first half of December, because the body needs the 14-days-time to create the antibodies against that very type of virus (in fact at least 14 days are necessary to create an immunity against a new pathogen). This does not mean that you will definitely remain safe from the infection, but at least the symptoms are supposed to be milder, the length should be shortened (much less than 7 days) and it shouldnât end with a complication, like a secondary bacterial superinfection.
Whereas, the common cold (acute viral nasopharyngitis or acute coryza), is a highly contagious, viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory system (URI-upper respiratory infection), primarily caused by picornaviruses (including rhinoviruses) or coronaviruses.
The primary method to prevent infection is hand-washing to minimize person-to-person transmission of the virus as well as avoiding âsufferersâ. There are no antiviral drugs approved to treat or cure the infection. Most available medications are the symptomatic ones (treat symptoms only, not the cause). Megadoses of vitamin C (1-4 grams daily), preparations from Echinacea purpurea and Zinc gluconate have been studied as treatments for the common cold although none has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency. But they help most of the people in practice.
Until now scientific research studies have no acceptable proof about the solid relation between cold weather and coming down with a cold in winter months. However, most doctors and researchers agree that acute cooling of the feet causes the onset of common cold symptoms, 4-5 days after the chilling. Some possible explanations were suggested, such as constriction of blood vessels (of the nasal passages and other parts of the body) which might lead to decreased blood flow in these areas, consequently lower concentration of antibodies and white blood cells (the main âimmune fightersâ leading to reduced immunity. Same applies to being exposed to draft for a long time. But further studies are needed on this issue.
You might also try prevention with the following:
1. Flu vaccination (if you are healthy and if this is not contraindicated)
2. Vitamin C 1000 mg daily (increasing it to 4000 mg the very moment you sense suspicious symptoms)
3. Tablets with liophylised bacteria that induce specific immunity against them (the ones that are most common for winter URI), like RespivaxÂ®, taken 1 tablet first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, 3 sessions of 20 days on the tablets with a 10-day-pause in between these sessions, from September to December, for at least 3 years
4. Aloe vera gel, as a regulator/moderator of immunity (increases immunity where this is needed, decreases immunity where opposite is needed)
5. Multi vitamin and mineral preparations on daily basis
6. Echinacea purpurea, the very moment you sense suspicious symptoms
7. Much fruits and vegetables (the ones which can be found in these months)
"Ask a Doctor" questions are answered by certified physicians and other medical professionals.
For more information about experts participating in the "Ask a Doctor" Network, please visit our
medical experts page.
You may also visit our Cold, Flu and Viral Infections , for moderated patient to patient support and information.
The information provided on eHealth Forum is designed to improve, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own physician.
Personal consultation(s) with a qualified medical professional is the proper means for diagnosing any medical condition.