Strategies for Cold and Sore Throats

The traditional season of coughs, colds and sore throats is now upon us. The vast majority of these infections are viral and GPs will generally advise paracetamol; however, if they suspect a bacterial infection (such as a chest infection or tonsil...

Dr Rowena Nicholson is a doctor who uses mainstream, natural and complementary medicine in a holistic 'balanced medicine' approach. She finds that there is much more that each individual can do, both to prevent and to treat these nuisance infections.

If you are completely healthy, you should never get a cough or cold. Have you ever wondered why you seem to get a viral infection just at the most inconvenient time? This is because our immune systems are affected by stress. Tiredness, nutritional deficiencies, toxins, drugs, allergies and a lack of exercise are other factors which affect our immune response. And don't be complacent because you have had the flu jab; it covers only certain influenza strains, and most viral infections are not in fact influenza.

So what can you do? Prevention is always better than cure. Review your lifestyle and ensure that your diet is healthy and well balanced, with only limited sugar and junk food intake, and a good range of fresh vegetables, nuts and omega oils (in fish or flax oil). You might want to take a good-quality multivitamin and mineral as an insurance policy. Also consider your work/life balance, and whether you could do something to help manage a busy or stressful job or lifestyle better, such as yoga or meditation. These can be fitted in to even the busiest lifestyle, and will also help promote peaceful sleep, something else that is a problem for many people.

However, because most of us succumb now and then, it's good to have an emergency tool kit on hand to help deal with an infection. The regime below really does help, and if you take it early enough, may actually prevent the infection from taking hold:

* Vitamin C to bowel-tolerance level for two days (this is 1g less than the dose at which you get diarrhoea, typically 5-10g a day; omit this if you have a sensitive stomach or get indigestion).

* Zinc - 30mg daily for two days, then reduce to 15mg daily for 1-2 weeks.

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* Echinacea - 500mg dried root (=150mg dry extract) five times daily for one week, then three times daily for another week.

* Garlic capsules - equivalent of 10mg garlic oil daily.

* Plenty of water to drink.

Goldenseal is often sold combined with echinacea; it is a good anti-bacterial herb, but isn't particularly helpful for viral infections.

Since so many people feel pressurised to go to work or socialise when they are unwell, we all find ourselves over-exposed to infections at times. If this happens, consider giving your system a boost with 15mg zinc daily and a course of echinacea for a week or two.

Those who have asthma are particularly vulnerable to the effects of coughs and colds. If this applies to you, ensure that your asthma is well controlled, whether through medication or a natural/comple-mentary approach. It may also be worth considering allergy-desensitis-ation treatment such as EPD (enzyme-potentiated desensitisation), a safe, low-dose method which studies have shown may offer improvement to 88% of asthmatics.

Look after yourself, and there is no need to suffer along with the crowd. If you do go down with something, think of it as a minor health warning and do something about it!

Please note that this article is not a substitute for individual medical advice; anyone who has a medical condition, is pregnant, under age or who takes medication should check with their medical practitioner before taking any supplements.

Dr Rowena Nicholson has trained in general practice, allergy, nutritional and environmental medicine and in complementary medicine. She is a partner at The Centre for Balanced Medicine in Chudleigh and can be contacted on

(01626 854743) or via

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