By Andrea Jacobs, Certified Naturopath
In our 5-part “Common Colds and Influenza Series” (Part 1 | Part 2) we are discussing how infectious winter diseases develop, how they spread, how you can protect yourself against them and which natural remedies exist . Today our topic is::
Common cold or influenza?
The common cold was categorized medically for the first time in the early Sixteenth century and named on the basis of being associated with cold weather and runny noses.
Common cold is caused by viruses, mainly rhino and corona viruses, that affect the upper respiratory tract. It is the most frequent of all infectious diseases in humans and is often transmitted via the fingers which carry viruses from contaminated surfaces to the face. It is therefore important to regularly wash your hands, especially after using public transport or visiting crowded places. The common cold is also often transmitted via air droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing. When the illness sets in, symptoms can prevail for many days, even up to a week. Typical are nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing, and sometimes a slight fever accompanied by a headache.
The incubation period for common cold, the time that elapses between the moment of exposure and first symptoms, usually ranges between one and three days. The infection weakens the immune system and may lead to bacteria taking advantage of the situation. This can lead to secondary infections, especially infections of the sinuses.
Influenza on the other hand is caused by the influenza A and B viruses, and starts off differently to a common cold. Sudden high fever and extreme malaise are the hallmarks of this illness. Influenza is far more unpleasant and serious than a common cold. It can even end up being deadly due to complications such as pneumonia, especially for older people. However, it is transmitted in the same way. We recommend that you always consult a doctor if you have influenza-like symptoms.
Among the influenza Viruses, there are subgroups with major differences. Bird flu for example is very dangerous with about 60% fatality, but it is not extremely contagious. In contrast, the swine flu virus H1N1 is highly contagious but the course of the illness is usually milder.
Whether common cold or an influenza, similar events take place upon infection. The virus merges with a human cell to multiply. The immune system meanwhile, becomes activated and tries to isolate and immobilize the viruses. This process lasts a few days and in most individuals with healthy immune systems, the virus is eventually defeated.
You can support your immune system and help defeat the viruses by drinking lots of water, avoiding physical exertion and having lots of rest.
Also, black elderberry flavonoids have been shown to be beneficial against coughs, colds and flus.
In a recent study performed at the Griffith University in Australia, it was shown that a membrane enriched elderberry formula produced by Iprona AG was able to significantly reduce the duration of colds by 2 days, as well as significantly reduce the severity of cold symptoms in long distance air travelers.
A previous in vitro study and the University of Giessen in Germany had shown the same elderberry formula to be active against influenza A and B viruses, as well as against bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections.
Elderberry is thought to coat the viruses and prevent them from infecting new cells.
In our next article, we shall look at the well documented traditional use of elderberry as a remedy against coughs, colds and flus. We shall also take a closer look at modern scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of black elderberry.