Colds: recognize signals and prevent outbreaks

Washing hands, airing out, strengthening the immune system – everyone knows the measures to prevent colds. But then why do we lie flat again every year? Encountering cold viruses is unavoidable and the risk of infection is high. It is crucial to take the right measures at the first symptoms. Why it is so difficult? We often do not hear what our body is telling us.

"And suddenly it hit me – virtually overnight". We often hear this sentence when it comes to colds. However, most of the time our body tells us earlier when something is wrong. It doesn’t always have to be the typical scratchy throat or tingling in the nose. Often we are just tired, weary and long for peace, warmth and security.

Listening to signals from the body

Overhearing the body’s signals is normal for most people. No wonder: On the one hand, we are constantly busy and hardly give ourselves room to listen to ourselves. On the other hand, we have trained ourselves to be strong, productive and efficient. The result is that we get it all the thicker later on. But our body sends us signals with good reason. It communicates with us constantly to tell us what it needs to be in balance and stay healthy. If you learn to listen to the signals and messages and to react accordingly, you will quickly notice how good it feels to be more and more in harmony with your body. The body’s own wisdom thus quickly becomes your most important resource for more health, life energy and balance.

Two ways to get infected

Especially with a cold, there is still a lot you can do at the first signs. If you intervene in time, you have a good chance of preventing the outbreak or at least ensuring that it is less severe or goes away more quickly. Encountering pathogens in winter is hard to avoid. Life takes place indoors, people crowd buses and trains and every second person has a cold. To this end, the office is rarely ventilated and the dry heating air irritates the mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to infections. The pathogens enter your body in two main ways: either through the air when people with colds cough or sneeze (droplet infection) or through objects such as stair rails and doorknobs (smear infection).

Recognize signs and act

The pathogens first hit the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat. Initial defensive reactions of the body are therefore typically felt by a scratching in the throat or a tickling in the nose. By sneezing and coughing, the body tries to get rid of the pathogens again. But even if you just feel run down, cold, easily irritable or have a headache, these could be the first signs of a cold, or at least mean your body is more susceptible to catching it. Here, too, it is called: Listen to the messages and follow your needs. Take a hot bath, treat yourself to a quiet evening on the sofa or cook yourself a warming, nourishing soup.

Quick action – the best SOS measures:

With these measures you can succeed in stopping the cold before it breaks out.

  • Rest and sleep: mobilize the immune system
    Bed rest and sleep are still the number one measures for any type of infection. Take it easy and try to get plenty of sleep. Your body now needs all its energies to fight the invading pathogens. Overnight your immune system works at full speed. Nothing mobilizes the body’s defenses better than a night of sleep and a day in bed. Often it is even possible to avert the cold before it breaks out in this way. Do not be afraid to take a sick leave for one day. Often you can prevent a longer absence, which also benefits your employer.
  • Herbal teas: supply with liquid and transport secretions away
    Especially when a cold is coming on, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Herbal teas are doubly effective here. They provide the body with fluids and thus support its defense function. The secretions in the respiratory tract liquefy and pathogens can be transported away more quickly. On the other hand, the various herbal teas have specific effects. For the early phase, when it is still possible to use the cold, it is best to resort to a tea with fresh ginger and lemon, which supports the immune system (see recipe below Immune Booster Drink) (link on page below).
  • Salt rinse: disinfect the nose and throat
    The most convenient way to disinfect your nose and get rid of mucus is to use a nasal irrigation device. You can get this at the pharmacy. To rinse the throat, put a pinch of salt in a glass of lukewarm water and gargle with it. If you don’t have a nasal rinsing device at hand, you can also simply draw the salty water from a bowl into your nose.
  • Garlic: natural antibiotic
    Forget for a moment your worry about smelling of garlic. Allicin and the sulfur compounds it produces are the best way to kill viruses and bacteria. Raw garlic thus acts as a natural antibiotic. You don’t have to eat it raw to do this. Squeeze a tuber, add salt and olive oil and eat some bread with it. Eat slowly and chew them thoroughly to relieve your digestion as much as possible. The digestive processes consume a lot of energy, which you now need for your defenses. This is also the reason why you lose your appetite when you are sick.

If you catch the common cold despite plenty of sleep, lots of tea and an extra portion of garlic, you can still greatly influence its course and alleviate the symptoms. To fight colds, coughs and sore throats, you do not necessarily have to take medication. These home remedies have stood the test of time with good reason:

Fight complaints in a natural way

Chicken soup inhibits inflammation: It is the best known home remedy for colds and flu. The amino acid cysteine contained in chicken meat has an anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect on the mucous membranes. The mucus can flow off faster and the nose becomes free again. Chicken soup with lots of zinc also strengthens the immune system.

Onion has a decongestant effect: Whether onion juice or onion vapors – the sulfides and vitamin C in the onion strengthen the immune system and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Against cough: Chop onion into small pieces, take care of with sugar and cover it. After an hour, skim off the resulting juice and take it in. Inhaled onion vapors also decongest the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. Put the chopped onion in a bowl and place it at head height.

Eucalyptus and mint oil for colds: The oils loosen mucus and thus help get rid of colds faster. Put a drop of eucalyptus or mint oil in a hot water bath and breathe deeply in and out with a towel over your head, about 10 minutes. The water vapor optimally distributes the active substances in the respiratory tract.

Thyme relieves cough: Thyme relieves cough irritation as a tea infusion. Once the cough is loosened, the body is better able to clear mucus and the cold heals. Use either fresh thyme or a tea blend for this purpose.

Prevention: diet, exercise, sleep

To strengthen your immune system, three factors are crucial: diet, sleep and exercise. Endurance sports in particular increase the activity of certain immune cells in the body. This does not require high-impact sports. It’s important to exercise regularly, preferably in the fresh air. Restful sleep is also important. The immune system needs rest to regenerate and, for example, to produce white blood cells that fight off pathogens. If you have a constant cold and one infection follows the next, it could well be that your body is in a chronic state of inflammation. What you can do about it and what foods you can use to strengthen your immune system, read here: Chronic inflammation II – regain energy

Learn to listen to yourself

Not only in the cold season: learn to listen to the signals of your body again. Whether yoga, meditation or simple breathing exercises, find the right way for you to get in tune with your body and your needs.

Mindfulness exercise:

Take five minutes at least once a day to listen inside yourself. Sit or lie down comfortably and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel right now? Relaxed? Tense? Nervous? Balanced?
  • How does my body feel? Does anything hurt? Do I feel tension – in my shoulders, in my back or in my stomach??
  • What do I need right now? Maybe a bath? A delicious meal or a conversation?

Tip: Apps like 7Mind – in seven days to more mindfulness or Headspace (English app) can help you train your mindfulness.

Colds: Recognize signals and prevent outbreaks

Immune Booster Drink:

This drink not only helps with colds and supports your immune system. It also provides a pleasant inner warmth on cold winter days.

Recipe for a cup:
1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (organic quality)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
½ tsp honey

Pour hot water on ginger and let it steep for 5 minutes. Then add apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and honey to it. Important: Never put honey into boiling water or water with a temperature above 40°C. The high temperatures destroy the valuable enzymes in honey.

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