Millions of people suffer from cold and flu every year. But what are the symptoms behind these viral infections and how can herbal treatment strategies help you to overcome them?
Cold and flu are viral infections that attack the respiratory system, most commonly resulting in a congested nose and chest, sore throat and headaches. Flu is caused by strains of the influenza virus and is characterised by more severe and enduring symptoms. Between three and five million people every year are affected by cold and flu.
The 20th century saw three flu pandemics around the world which killed tens of millions of people. Severe symptoms are uncommon and occur at a rate of less than 0.1%, but everyone will experience the symptoms of the common cold or flu at some point in their life. Cold and flu can strike out of nowhere but, in Europe, they are most common at the change of the seasons and temperature from Autumn through to Spring.
The primary way in which cold or flu is contracted is passing from person to person or traveling through the air after sneezing. Prevention should begin before the start of the typical cold and flu season, through building up the strength of the immune system but also improving digestive performance. An inefficient digestion can lead to an increased burden on back-up immune defences. Typical dietary culprits are excessive sweet and fatty foods and not allowing enough time between meals for efficient digestion.
Colds and flu, however mild, can make you feel weak, tired and low though symptoms will vary depending upon the severity of the infection. These can include an increase in body temperature, you can feel chilly, have a sore throat, body stiffness, muscle aches and pains, headaches, disturbed digestion, unusual bowel habits, lack of appetite, fatigue, blocked nose, sneezing, nausea, watery eyes and mental restlessness.
These symptoms are often a positive sign, that you are fighting off the virus. During an infection, the immune system produces chemicals known as cytokines that induce a healing inflammatory response (which brings in more circulation and defensive white blood cells) but which are also associated with headaches and muscular pain.