A Simple, Inexpensive Trick
to Cure a Cold
Article page |
Health page |
Fruits and Vegetables
Diseases and Remedies |
By Dr. Mercola : Each
year Americans catch more than one billion colds, making
the cold virus the most common infectious disease in the
It accounts for more
school absences and missed work than any other illness,
and it's the number one reason people visit their
physicians -- even though most physicians have little to
offer in the form of treatment.
It's a widespread
misconception that colds are caused by bacteria. Colds
are actually triggered by a virus, which means if your
physician prescribes you an antibiotic, it will be
More on this shortly,
but before I delve into simple prevention and treatment
strategies it's important you know how colds
are contracted in the first place.
How Do You Catch a Cold?
The most common way cold
viruses are spread is not from being around coughing or
sneezing, or walking barefoot in the rain, but rather
from hand-to-hand contact. For instance, someone with a
cold blows their nose then shakes your hand or touches
surfaces that you also touch.
Cold viruses can live on
pens, computer keyboards, coffee mugs and other objects
for hours, so it's easy to come into contact with such
viruses during daily life.
However, the key to
remember is that just being exposed to a cold virus does
not have to mean that you'll catch a cold. If your
immune system is operating at its peak, it should
actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus
without ever getting sick.
If your immune system is
impaired, on the other hand, it's akin to having an
open-door policy for viruses; they'll easily take hold
in your body. So the simple and short answer is, you
catch a cold due to impairment in your immune system.
There are many ways this can result, but the more common
contributing factors are:
- Eating too much
sugar and too many grains
- Not getting enough
- Using insufficient
strategies to address emotional stressors in your
- Vitamin D
deficiency, as discussed below
- Any combination of
Vitamin D Deficiency:
Another Reason You May "Catch" a Cold
It's estimated that the
average U.S. adult typically has two to four colds each
year, while children may have up to 12! One reason for
the widespread prevalence may be that vitamin D
deficiency is incredibly common in the United States,
especially during the winter months when cold (and flu)
viruses are at their peak.
Research has confirmed
that "catching" colds and flu may actually be a symptom
of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal
vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune
response and make you far more susceptible to
contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory
In the largest and most
nationally representative study of its kind to date,
involving about 19,000 Americans, people with the lowest
vitamin D levels reported having
significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu
-- and the risk was even greater for those with chronic
respiratory disorders like asthma.
At least five additional
studies also show an inverse association between lower
respiratory tract infections and vitamin D levels, and
read about them in detail here. But the research is
very clear, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower
your risk of contracting colds, flu, and other
respiratory tract infections.
It's not surprising,
then, that the average American gets so many colds each
year, as current guidelines for optimal intake and
normal vitamin D levels are far too low -- and since
most people do not get adequate sun exposure on a daily
basis (which is what produces vitamin D in your skin)
many are deficient. I strongly believe you could avoid
colds and influenza entirely by
maintaining your vitamin D level in the optimal range.
How Long Do Colds Last …
and How Can You Make Your Cold Go Away Faster?
Most uncomplicated colds
last between eight and nine days, but about 25 percent
last two weeks, and 5-10 percent last three weeks. Even
the most stubborn colds will typically resolve in a few
weeks' time; this is actually one of the ways you can
distinguish a cold from allergies.
A cold will last, at
most, a few weeks, but allergy symptoms can last all
How quickly you bounce
back is typically defined by you and your collective
lifestyle habits -- and this does not mean
popping over-the-counter cough and cold remedies or
fever reducers. In fact, as long as your temperature
remains below 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees
Celsius) there is no need to lower it.
Cold viruses do not
reproduce at higher body temperatures, so a slight fever
should help you get rid of the virus quicker
and help you to feel better much sooner.
You should avoid taking
over-the-counter pain-relief medications as well, as a
study showed that people who take aspirin and Tylenol
suppress their body's ability to produce antibodies
to destroy the cold virus. Aspirin has even been linked
lung complications including pulmonary edema, an
abnormal build up of fluid in your lungs, when taken in
You should only use
these medications when absolutely necessary, such as if
you have a temperature greater than 105 degrees F (40.5
degrees C), severe muscle aches or weakness.
Hydrogen Peroxide: A Simple
Trick to Beat a Cold
I don't advise
over-the-counter medications, but one simple treatment
you can try that is surprisingly effective against upper
respiratory infections is hydrogen peroxide.
Many patients at my
Natural Health Center have had remarkable results in
curing colds and flu within 12 to 14 hours when
administering a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
(H2O2) into each ear. You will hear some bubbling, which
is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight
Wait until the bubbling
and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes), then
drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear. A
bottle of hydrogen peroxide in 3 percent solution is
available at any drug store for a couple of dollars or
less. It is simply amazing how many people respond to
this simple, inexpensive treatment.
So What Else Can You do to
Recover From a Cold, Quicker … and Prevent One in the First
As I said above, the
number one way to conquer a cold (or flu) is vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent,
producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in
your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. So
optimizing your levels will not only help send a cold
virus packing … it will help ward off cold viruses in
the first place.
The best source for
vitamin D is direct sun exposure. But for many of us,
this just isn't practical during the winter. The next
best option to sunlight is the use of a
safe indoor tanning device. If neither natural nor
artificial sunlight is an option, then using oral
vitamin D3 supplements is your best bet.
Based on the latest
research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU's
of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This
recommendation also includes children, the elderly and
However, keep in mind
that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as
your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors,
such as the color of your skin, your location, and how
much sunshine you're exposed to on a regular basis. So,
although these recommendations may put you closer to the
ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply
impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will
cover everyone's needs.
The only way to
determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested.
Ideally, you'll want to maintain a vitamin D level of
50-65 ng/ml year-round.
For an in-depth
explanation of everything you need to know before you
get tested, please read my latest updates in
Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.
Dietary Strategies to Kick
If you feel yourself
coming down with a cold or flu, this is NOT the time to
be eating ANY sugar, artificial sweeteners or processed
foods. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune
system -- which needs to be ramped up, not suppressed,
in order to combat an emerging infection.
So if you are fighting a
cold, you'll want to avoid all sugar like the plague,
and this includes sugar in the form of fruit juice and
even grains (which break down as sugar in your body).
Ideally, you must
address nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress issues the
moment you first feel yourself getting a bug. This is
when immune-enhancing strategies will be most effective.
So when you're coming
down with a cold, it's time to address ALL of the
contributing factors immediately, which includes
tweaking your diet in favor of foods that will
strengthen your immune response. Good choices include:
Raw, grass-fed organic milk, and/or high-quality
- Fermented foods
such as raw kefir, kimchee, miso, pickles,
sauerkraut, etc, which are rich in probiotics, or
good bacteria. Scientific research shows that 80
percent of your immune system resides inside your
digestive tract, so eating probiotic-rich foods, or
taking a high-quality probiotic, will help support
your immune system health.
- Raw, organic eggs
from free-ranging, preferably local, chickens
- Grass-fed beef
- Coconuts and
omega-3 fats, such as krill oil
- Locally grown
fruits and vegetables, appropriate for your
especially Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake, which
contain beta glucans (which have immune-enhancing
- Garlic, a potent
antimicrobial that kills bacteria, viruses and
fungi. Ideally this should be in fresh form, eaten
raw and crushed with a spoon just before eating.
- Herbs and spices
with high ORAC scores: Turmeric, oregano, cinnamon,
cloves (for more on ORAC, visit
- Make sure you are
drinking plenty of fresh, pure water. Water is
essential for the optimal function of every system
in your body and will help with nose stuffiness and
loosening secretions. You should drink enough water
so that your urine is a light, pale yellow.
And what about the old
wives' tale of chicken soup for your cold?
Chicken soup can
help reduce your symptoms. Chicken contains a natural
amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in
your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it
Processed, canned soups
won't work as well as the homemade version, however.
For best results, make
up a fresh batch yourself (or ask a friend or family
member to do so) and make the soup hot and spicy with
plenty of pepper. The spices will trigger a sudden
release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and
lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus
so it's easier to cough up and expel.
Vitamin D, check!
Hydrogen peroxide, check! Healthy diet, check! We've
covered several of the primary "weapons" you should have
in your cold-fighting arsenal, but there are others,
High-Quality Sleep, and Plenty of It
Pay attention to how you are
sleeping. If you aren't getting enough sleep, or
enough restorative sleep, you'll be at increased
risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune
system is also the most effective when you're not
sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the
quicker you'll recover. You can find
33 secrets for a good night's sleep here.
Regular exercise is a crucial
strategy for increasing your resistance to illness.
There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise
can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by
boosting your immune system. In fact, one study
found that people who exercised regularly (five or
more days a week)
cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50
percent. And, in the event they did catch a
cold, their symptoms were much less severe than
among those who did not exercise.
Exercise likely cuts
your risk of colds so significantly because it
triggers a rise in immune system cells that can
attack any potential invaders. Each time you
exercise you can benefit from this boost to your
Ideally, establish a
regular fitness program, such as
Peak Fitness, now, to help you ward off colds
and other illness.
However, if you're
already feeling sick don't overdo it.
Over-exercising can actually place more stress on
your body, which can suppress your immune system --
and you don't want that either. You might just go
for a walk if you are coming down with a cold, or
simply tone down your regular workout.
Any rise in body
temperature will be an unwelcome climate for a viral
invader, though, so some exercise is likely to be
Your Emotional Stress
Emotional stressors can also
predispose you to an infection while
making cold symptoms worse. Finding ways to
manage daily stress as well as your reactions to
circumstances beyond your control will contribute to
a strong and resilient immune system.
My favorite tool for
this is the
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a system that
helps balance your body's subtle energies and repair
emotional "short-circuits." EFT may even help you
overcome cold symptoms.
Supplements That Send
Supplements can be
beneficial for colds, but they should be used only as an
adjunct to the lifestyle measures already discussed.
Some of the more helpful
options for cold (and flu) -- above and beyond vitamin D
- Vitamin C:
A very potent antioxidant; use a natural form such
as acerola, which contains associated
micronutrients. You can take several grams every
hour till you are better unless you start developing
Oil: The higher the carvacrol
concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol
is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano
A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum
antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is
also the richest source of caffeic acid and
apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in
immune response and even fight cancer.
- A tea made
from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset,
linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot
and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you
to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus
from your system.
- Olive leaf
extract: Ancient Egyptians and
Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of
health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a
natural, non-toxic immune system builder.
Remember This Tip: Wash
Your Hands Sensibly
Washing your hands
frequently is one of the easiest ways to wipe out germs
and viruses and reduce your chances of becoming sickened
by them. Thorough hand-washing truly is an important
step, as you are at far greater risk of passing on an
shaking someone's hand than even by sharing a kiss.
One report even found
that regular hand washing may be more effective than
drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses
such as influenza.
When you wash up, plain
soap and water will do. Do not make the mistake of using
antibacterial cleansers, as their widespread use is
leading to strains of resistant bacteria, or
"superbugs," which cause the ingredients to lose
effectiveness for the times when they really are needed,
such as for surgeons prior to surgery.
Further, the active
ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan,
an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits
bacterial growth. But not only does triclosan kill
bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.
Antibacterial soaps are
also no more effective than regular soaps. One study
people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers
developed a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever,
vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as
people who used products that did not contain
antibacterial ingredients. So please avoid making the
mistake of using antibacterial liquids and soaps.
Too Much Hand-Washing Can
There is another
important caveat to remember, and that is your skin is
actually your primary defense against bacteria -- not
So resist the urge to
become obsessive about washing your hands. If you wash
them too frequently you can actually extract many of the
protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin
to crack and bleed.
It is rare for a germ on
your skin to cause a problem -- it is typically only an
issue when you transfer that to your nose, mouth or an
open wound like cracked skin. So obsessive-compulsive
washing can actually increase your risk of getting sick
by providing an entryway for potentially dangerous
So mild to moderate
washing is wise, but excessive washing, especially with
harsh soaps, will actually be highly counterproductive.
Avoid the Antibiotics!
More than 300 different
viruses can cause colds, so each time you have a cold it
is caused by a distinct virus (i.e. adenovirus,
rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, coronavirus). A virus
is much smaller than a bacteria; it is a tiny cluster of
genetic material surrounded by a protein wrapper.
There are currently NO
drugs available that can kill these viruses.
Antibiotics, including penicillin, do not have any
effect on viruses, but unfortunately have been
vastly over-prescribed for this very (useless) purpose.
That, coupled with the excessive use of antibiotics in
agriculture, has contributed to a steep rise in
infections now claim more lives each year than the
"modern plague" of AIDS, and cost the American health
care system some
$20 billion a year!
Further, according to
one meta-analysis, the health risk from over-use of
antibiotics is also a very personal one, as opposed to
simply raising the occurrence of antibiotic resistance
in the general population over time.
Whenever you use an
antibiotic, you're increasing your susceptibility to
developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic
-- and you can become the
carrier of this resistant bug, and spread it to
So please, if you have a
simple cold remember that an antibiotic will do far more
harm than good.
When Should You Call Your
Sinus, ear and lung
infections (bronchitis and pneumonia) are examples of
bacterial infections that do respond to
antibiotics. If you develop any of the following
symptoms, these are signs you may be suffering from a
bacterial infection rather than a cold virus, and you
should call your physician's office:
- Fever over 102
degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius)
- Ear pain
- Pain around your
eyes, especially with a green nasal discharge
- Shortness of breath
or a persistent uncontrollable cough
coughing up green and yellow sputum
however, if you have a cold medical care is not
necessary. Rest and attention to the lifestyle factors
noted above will help you to recover quickly and, if you
stick to them, will significantly reduce your chances of
catching another one anytime soon