Autumn and spring bookend the cold and ‘flu season. These are the times of year when you’re most likely to succumb to a respiratory infection. There’s still no magic bullet to banish a cold. You know the medical advice – go to bed and drink plenty of fluid. But choosing bed rest in the “soldier on” era remains a huge challenge for many.
There are a few naturopathic remedies that can ease the misery of a cold. For example, taking medicinal doses of Vitamin C has been proven to shorten the duration of the typical cold. Some studies show that zinc has a similar effect. Elder flower tea can reduce nasal congestion, which is ideal when you have a runny or blocked nose. Low iron levels make you more prone to infections, and are further depleted when you’ve succumbed to one.
There are many other natural remedies people swear by, such as taking herbs like echinacea, garlic or olive leaf extract. While the evidence is inconclusive, if they work for you then keep on doing it.
Why rest is best
While reducing the symptoms of a cold is important, despite all the remedies you will still spend at least a few days feeling miserable. There are a number of reasons why rest is so important when you’re feeling unwell. While bed rest mightn’t significantly alter the severity or length of a cold, sometimes the greatest benefit comes from what you’re not doing when you’re resting.
Pushing yourself to be active when you’ve got a virus can trigger the release of stress-related hormones, which reduces the white blood cells ability to fight infection. That in itself should be enough to justify taking time off even for a pesky cold. But there are other reasons why you should choose some quiet time at home when you’re ill.
Staying at home and resting, means you have less opportunity to spread the virus. People who catch public transport have an increased risk of catching respiratory infections, those bugs really can hang around for days on everything you touch. Even if you ditch the train and drive, you’re potentially putting other road users at risk. Driving while suffering from a cold may impair your reaction time and make you more prone to having collisions. If nothing else, think of your colleagues or clients who won’t thank you for sharing the misery when you bring your cold to work.
‘I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.’
George Bernard Shaw
The joys of rest when you’re ill
Taking to bed or the couch for a day or two when you’ve got a cold has a number of advantages. Importantly you can catch up on sleep, which might be the reason you got sick in the first place as getting less than seven hours sleep a night on a regular basis makes you more susceptible to catching a cold.
When not snoozing, there’s space for reading, podcasts and movies, or other restful things that you might feel you don’t usually have enough time for. But simply resting and daydreaming may have the added bonus of reigniting your creativity.
Even if you live alone, or don’t have close friends or family to help out, most cities have options for home delivery of healthy takeaway food or supermarket supplies. From the comfort of your bed you can order a spicy tom yum soup to help clear your sinuses, or more tissues and vitamins.
With so much stimulation in our lives, it can be a gift to take some time off from thinking and doing. Sometimes our head needs a break, just as much as our body. While I’d much prefer to be resting poolside in a tropical location, there are worse things in life than spending a day in bed feeling a bit crap. The quicker you stop fighting it, the sooner you’ll feel better.