As a busy acupuncturist, I cannot afford to come down with a common cold. I have a lot of patients that rely on me to “bring it!” and help them with their own health problems.

Therefore, I have developed some strategies to beat a common cold before it has a chance to really dig-in and take me out. Please allow me to share these strategies with you.

Keep on mind – these strategies work best (or in some cases, only) if you do them at the very first sign or day of a cold.

Since early detection is the necessary first step to stemming a cold, let’s review the signs and symptoms one is likely to experience.

  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • fever
  • chills
  • sweating
  • lack of sweating
  • headache
  • body aches
  • aversion to cold
  • aversion to wind
  • aversion to heat

These signs and symptoms often follow an exposure to windy, damp, and/or cold weather conditions. It’s a smart move to dress in layers when the weather is changing. Proper clothing choices are a part of a preventative medicine approach.

Chinese medicine differentiates between various cold and warm types of common cold and diagnosis is not always obvious. The use of Chinese herbs for the common cold is most effective when the prescription is written by an experienced and licensed herbalist.

In case you don’t have 24/7 access to a Chinese herbalist, the following strategies can be used safely regardless of the type of common cold you are about to beat.

1. Fluids and Vitamin C.

I usually keep Emergen-CTM brand powdered Vitamin C packets around my home and at work. Ester-C® is another good choice for this purpose. People can absorb upwards of 2000 mg of Vitamin C per hour.

At the first sign of a cold, I tear open two Emergen-CTM packets and add 16 ounces of water, then drink. I do this every hour until I go to sleep that night. If no Emergen-CTM is available, 2000 mg of Ester-C® with water will work just fine.

Proper hydration is essential if you are to “flush” the cold virus out of your system. Shoot for half your body weight in ounces of water per day. I’m 190 pounds so I shoot for at least 95 ounces of water per day. Do your best, it’s okay to have to urinate a lot.

One note of caution: Vitamin C can loosen your stools, so back off on the dose if this becomes a problem.

2. Zinc Lozenges

I prefer the kind sold at health food stores which contain Vitamin C and are lemon flavored. I keep these on hand even when I don’t have the signs and symptoms of a cold. Take as directed on the package as soon as you detect that you may be fighting a cold virus.

Another word of caution: zinc can be hard on your stomach so you may need to have a little something in there to avoid becoming nauseous.

3. Saline Nasal Washes or Neti Pot

This can be used daily during the cold & flu season to prevent a common cold. The virus responsible for it settles into the nasopharynx, that area where the back of the nasal passage and upper throat meet. When there are sufficient quantities of the virus, you get symptoms.

Cold viruses don’t thrive in salt water environments. Saline solution simply washes them out of this otherwise opportune environment for replication. I keep my saline rinse in the shower and make it a part of my daily hygiene regimen.

4. Aromatherapy Steams

I keep certain essential oils on hand just for this purpose. I like to use red thyme, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils.

Place one drop of each oil in the bottom of a ceramic or earthenware bowl (but not more than one drop each). Have a towel handy big enough to create a hood around your head. Boil some water and pour into the bowl.

Position your hooded head over the bowl, close your eyes and breathe. Steam for 10 minutes or so, adding fresh hot water if the volume of steam drops over time. Try to let each breath of steam reach the affected areas (i.e. your nasal passages, throat, lungs).

5. Chicken Soup

Harvard researchers have confirmed the positive effects of chicken soup on the mucous membranes involved in a common cold. So if you are not a vegetarian, go get the makings for it or find a good organic soup already made. I like to add raw Chinese herbs to mine but that is a topic for another post.

6. Things to avoid

I will avoid alcohol, sugars, dairy, cold-natured foods (such as many raw fruits and vegetables), coffee and other sources of caffeine, and greasy or fried foods when fighting off a common cold.

Although most people think that consuming orange juice during a cold is useful under these circumstances, I do not agree. Orange juice tends to be cloying, phlegm-producing, and packed with sugars so it should be avoided. Stick to room temperature water, ginger tea, and broths.

7. Get enough rest

This often overlooked and much-underrated strategy can make or break your attempts at beating the common cold. Simply put, your body needs more rest than usual to marshal the forces necessary to beat a cold.

Of course, Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be a powerful combo to knock out a cold when it’s starting. Adjunct modalities such as moxibustion, cupping, and guasha can also prove quite powerful to knock out or shorten the duration of a common cold.

In conclusion, I know there are other tricks to avoiding a common cold but these are amongst my best, tried-and-true, self-tested and Dr. Scott approved techniques. If you have other tips that I haven’t mentioned here, please let me know what they are in a comment below.

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