Cold & Flu season is horrible and tricky. Catching a cold or the flu is almost inevitable. How to cure a cold and beat sickness is a game everyone wants to win. It takes the right tools and know-how to beat a cold in one or two days, but it can be done.
If you leave your house at all or have a large family, you’ll be surrounded by people. And those people will be breathing out things you’ll be breathing in. They’ll be sneezing, wheezing and coughing too. Then they’ll be touching things that you’ll be touching. Even the most stalwart “Germophobe” is likely to pick up some type of bug.
Yes, catching a cold or the flu almost inevitable, but having it linger for weeks is not necessary.
With 5 kids in our house, we’ve had our share of passing sickness around. And we’ve learned a few things about reducing the amount of downtime we spend sick in bed.
This is our list of 16 natural and medicinal ways we get rid of a cold or the flu faster than most people. We are certainly not medical experts, and if you have any kind of disability or chronic medical condition, you should always consult with your medical care provider. You may have heard of some of these time-tested methods, but we’re sure that you haven’t heard of them all.
Please read our suggestions and give them a try, but use common sense too. If your symptoms last more than a couple days, consult with your medical provider. Saving a few bucks, but losing your health just isn’t worth it.
Please Note: The examples given here are not designed to provide personal medical advice, but are shared to encourage you to learn and think about alternative options for treating everyday health issues. Please consult your medical doctor or naturopathic physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.
At the end of the article, we’ll list a few other things we do every day to keep our immune system stronger and live a healthier lifestyle that will help us fight off germs.
We’ll describe a symptom and what steps we take to remedy it.
Cure A Sore Throat Quickly
At the first sign or feel of a tickle in our throats, we gargle. We have 3 different solutions we use to gargle.
Warm Salt Water
1 tsp salt to 1 cup – heat to about 100 degrees – we do about 30 seconds in our microwave. Then gargle 3 or 4 times with that water. It will burn, but it will also kill any germs in your mouth. This is Steve’s “favorite.” Do this 3 or 4 times a day and you’ll be feeling better soon.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Annette uses warm apple cider vinegar to quickly quell a sore throat. The ratio is 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Annette starts with 1/2 an ounce of Apple Cider Vinegar. Warm it up in the microwave for about 30 or 40 seconds and tip your head back to gargle. Do this 3 or 4 times a day.
Honey, Lemon & Whiskey
This remedy for a sore throat came from Annette’s mom. It’s not something we use regularly, but if we are having a tough time sleeping, we pull this one out. Use equal parts of each substance to make this. As in 1 tablespoon of each, or 1 ounce of each.
Silver is an anti-fungal. Gargle with a tablespoon of colloidal silver every few hours to kill the bacteria in the throat. Or put it in a spray bottle and spray it into the back of your throat. It’s more effective if you can allow it to sit in the back of your throat for several minutes to kill bacteria. Be careful not to swallow a lot of colloidal silver as it can also kill good bacteria in your intestines.
Cold, Flu or a Sore Throat
Coat the soles of your feet with:
Vicks Vapo Rub or generic brand. It contains camphor (a cough suppressant and topical analgesic), eucalyptus oil (a cough suppressant), and menthol (a topical analgesic and cough suppressant). Put it on your feet just before bed (wear socks to protect your sheets). You can also put it on your feet during the day – just wear socks and shoes that you don’t care too much about. The generic brand for Vick’s Vapo Rub is called Vaporizing Chest Rub and is available at most dollar stores for well, a dollar!
Thieves Oil – This is a powerful mixture of essential oils including eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, clove, and lemon. Our daughter Becky researched this and found a great source in Colorado. Rocky Mountain Oils is our go-to source for essential oils. You can also rub Thieves Oil on your chest and throat – it may burn a little, so use it sparingly. Or mix it with some lotion before rubbing it on your skin.
Take Vitamin C
We take massive dosages of Vitamin C when we’re sick and need to cure a cold. Annette likes the chewable kind as it creates less intestinal upset for her. Steve just swallows 500 mg to 1000mg tablets. Depending on your body and when you are sick, between 3000 mg and 10,000 mg of Vitamin C taken throughout the day could help to boost your immune system. You’ll know that your body has had enough when your stools get loose or you are running for the bathroom.
Medical experts are mixed when it comes to the effectiveness of Vitamin C to cure a cold, but many do say that regularly taking Vitamin C before you get sick can help to strengthen your immune system and reduce the length and severity of the cold.
Echinacea with Goldenseal
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, these herbs are two of the most commonly purchased in the U.S. They are taken to bolster the immune system and to fight colds. Echinacea is particularly effective in fighting upper respiratory infections. We find that it elevates our metabolism – often causing us to “sweat it out” at night. Just be careful with this powerful combo herb team, and don’t take it for more than 2 weeks straight. It can also damage the good intestinal bacteria if taken for too long a period of time.
Cat’s Claw an excellent immune system booster, a powerful antioxidant. When we’re sick we take this in conjunction with Echinacea three or four times each day.
Pau D’ Arco
Pau D’ Arco is an anti-fungal, that also is proven to reduce pain and inflammation. It is getting harder to find in health food stores and websites. But this is also one of the standard cold-remedies we take three or four times each day when fighting an illness.
Because we have a small citrus orchard we tend to eat a lot of oranges in the winter. When Steve has a cold he’ll drink a lot of warm water with lemon in it. It soothes his throat and gives him additional Vitamin C.
Magic – Triple Antibiotic Ointment
This is a strange preventative measure and a way to speed up recovery. A friend told us that she uses a cotton swab coated in a triple antibiotic ointment to coat the inside of her nose before getting on an airplane. As a result, she never gets sick when traveling. We took this to a new level.
When Annette sings with her chorus, inevitably every holiday season she ends up with a bad upper respiratory infection. This year it didn’t happen. Before every rehearsal or concert, she applied the ointment inside her nose. It can tingle a little and cause your nose to run for a little bit, but it proved to be super effective at preventing illness. And it definitely helped cure a cold before it gets worse.
So, we took it one step further. When Steve got the flu two days before our annual New Years Eve party. He went to bed, took all of the herbs on our list AND put triple antibiotic ointment in his nose. While most people were fighting this flu for a week, he was back up in time for our annual charades game and throwing confetti on New Year’s Eve.
Asthma, Coughing & Chest Congestion
Hot Shower or Bath
When our son Joe would have bouts of asthma as a child, a hot bath opened up his bronchial tubes and eased his symptoms.
This is a flowering herb which, in liquid extract form, is an effective bronchodilator. It opens the airways and stimulates your respiratory system. It is a muscle relaxer so it helps to reduce spasms. And it acts as an expectorant helping clear air passages.
This oil can be purchased at most grocery stores less expensively than from health food stores. It contains OPC (Oligomeric proanthocyanidins) which provide a variety of health benefits). OPCs are an anti-inflammatory which doesn’t have any of the side effects that are associated using steroids. Grape seed is also believed to help boost the immune system.
For our son Joe’s asthma, we would rub grapeseed oil on his back, chest, and throat. He would sleep with an old tee-shirt on to keep the grapeseed oil from soiling his sheets. After a few days, he would be well and we would toss the t-shirt.
Grape Seed Capsules
We also take Grape Seed capsules whenever we get sick. The same anti-inflammatory properties help with coughs and other cold symptoms. The benefit is thought to be in its ability to reduce Leukotriene Levels in our bodies which create inflammation, particularly in the bronchial tubes and lungs. Again, if your tummy becomes upset, stop taking this.
4. Killing Germs Around the House and at Work
Door Knobs and Light Switches
This was a regular chore that we had our kids perform. Using a disinfectant – either Lysol or Rubbing Alcohol on a rag, we’d have our kids wipe down the light switches and door knobs throughout the house. You may also want to wipe down computer keyboards, telephones and cell phones.
Toothbrush and Water Bottles
Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect toothbrushes when you get a cold. You can also smoother your toothbrush in baking soda, this will kill bacteria and virus as well. Cleaning your toothbrush will keep you from reinfecting yourself. We recommend thoroughly washing your reusable water bottles at least once each week. Focus partially on the threads of the screw-on lids and the drinking spout.
Carrying disinfectant wipes in your purse or having them at your desk at work is a great idea. When we travel we carry a ziplock bag with a few paper towels soaked in rubbing alcohol on them. We use them to wipe down airplane tray tables and restaurant tables. When you go into a grocery store be sure to use their hand wipes on the cart handle.
These products aren’t necessarily for fighting a cold but are effective in keeping us healthier.
Tea Tree Oil
We’ve heard it said that Tea Tree oil is an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial substance. Steve uses this to eliminate toe-nail fungus and any flare-ups of athletes foot. He just rubs a couple of drops on the affected area after a shower and then puts his socks on. Changing socks every day and allowing your shoes to dry out between uses are particularly important to beating foot fungus.
Pau D’ Arco
This is an effective anti-fungal herb.
How Singers Manage Colds and Keep Singing
Annette sings with a large chorus in Phoenix and rubs shoulders with many professional singers. They have some tricks that help them keep singing even if they start to get sick.
Supplements and Tricks Singer Use:
- Zinc Lozenges
- Gargling with Saltwater and or Vinegar (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water)
- Using a hot mist humidifier
- Taking Lobelia
- Using Yogi Throat Comfort Tea
Check out this article in Bon Appetite Magazine where they interviewed several successful opera singers to find out what they do to keep singing when they feel the onset of a cold (BonAppetite.com)
Overall Tips to Stay Healthy
- Drink at least two 32 ounce bottles of water each day.
- Eat lots of Fruits and Veggies
- Take a multivitamin
- Wash your hands
- If you sneeze, cover your mouth with your elbow, not your hand.
- Use the hand wipes in the grocery store and take one on the way out to wipe down your steering wheel.
Summary – Cure a Cold in One Day (or so)
Get some sleep. Schedules don’t slow down just because you’re sick. But getting more rest is absolutely essential to getting better. If you can get to bed and stay there, you’ll usually recover faster. Or if you work from home and can take a long lunch nap, that will certainly help and speed up the healing process. If you can’t get out of work, get to bed as fast as you can when you get home and have as long of a bedtime sleep as you can manage.
Just remember to:
- Keep taking herbs 3 or 4 times each day.
- Gargle regularly.
- Using Vicks Vapo Rub or Thieves Oil on your feet.
- Put Triple Antibiotic Ointment in your nose.
You’ll feel better fast and be back on your feet in no time.
11 Things We Do To Stay Healthy
With health care costs ever-increasing, more than ever we need to become educated in basic medical know-how. We are amazed at the number of people who run to the doctor for a case of sniffles, or to the emergency room for a sore throat. The key to keeping medical costs down—and healthy living up—is expanding your knowledge of your body and medical conditions. No one will care for you, or your family, as much as you do. While excellent medical practitioners exist, we’ve learned to participate with them to receive better treatment and experience a faster recovery.
Here are a few inexpensive things we do to get healthy and stay healthy.
Drink 64 Ounces Per Day
Our bodies are about 70 percent water. Water carries nutrients through our body, keeps body systems operating and flushes out toxins. Next to oxygen, water is the most important element in life.
Many people think that the water contained in drinks such as fruit juice, coffee, cocoa or soda meet the daily requirement. We avoid most of those items for reasons beyond the additional cost. The added sugar, stimulants and unpronounceable chemicals don’t promote good health. And some drinks contain so much sodium they actually work against hydrating our bodies. Our family consumes soda, coffee and fruit juices only on special occasions.
Most experts say we should drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. We encourage our kids to take a water bottle with them whenever they’re out playing, riding in the car or doing other activities away from home.
Disinfect Your Home
Don’t underestimate the value of soap and water. Whenever we return home from a public place, our first act is to wash our hands. Every two to three weeks, one of the kids is sent on door-knob, light-switch, and telephone patrol. And believe us when we say that our kids’ fight over having this chore, they absolutely love doing it!
Armed with a rag and some liquid disinfectant, he or she wipes down these frequently touched items to kill the germs. Imagine the impact on the flu season if every school and office had disinfectant hand lotion available for everyone to use.
Get Outdoors – Vitamin D
A June 2002 Mayo Clinic Community Health bulletin stated, “Natural sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D which is critical to the development of healthy bones and teeth and helps prevent osteoporosis. Getting as little as 10 to 15 minutes of natural sunshine three times a week may be sufficient. Sunshine is necessary for the absorption of Vitamin D and calcium.”
We remember seeing old black-and-white pictures from the 1950s of babies parked in the sun in their baby carriages. With more people working inside large buildings or schools, it’s easy to forget the simple benefits of a daily dose of sunshine. Of course, balance is important—get too much and you’re a candidate for skin cancer.
We all talk about exercise, but how often do we exercise our bodies’ 600 muscles? Medical experts stress that exercise, combined with proper rest and nutrition, is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. Try walking around your neighborhood—it’s a great time to talk to neighbors. Walking at a mall during extreme weather is a good idea–if you leave your wallet at home.
For accountability, get together with a friend or look for inexpensive classes at a community college, church or YMCA. The key is to do something regularly. Don’t rush out and buy an expensive piece of equipment that will collect dust and become a garage-sale bargain. First look for one you can borrow or try at a workout facility.
Use Bleach to Kill the Germs
Bleach is a powerful disinfectant. Used judiciously and carefully it can keep many germs at bay. One summer, when Steve was in high school, he worked in a gymnastics camp kitchen, in trade for camp fees. To keep the kitchen sanitary, they would add a couple “glugs” of bleach to the scalding water used to scrub the pots and pans. Bleach was also added to the water for mopping the floors to kill germs and keep the kids at camp healthier.
Today, wearing rubber gloves, we use a glug of bleach in our dishwater when cleaning pots and pans. We also use a 10-percent-bleach-and-water solution to wipe down toys and other items purchased at garage sales and thrift stores. We keep the same solution in a spray bottle in the shower to spray on and sponge off the walls a couple times each week to stop mildew.
Consider herbs and natural remedies
This area can be controversial, but the science of nutrition and natural remedies has been growing and improving over the past 20 years. We use a few herbs to treat conditions in our family. Colds are treated with Echinacea, grape seed extract and/or colloidal silver, a natural antibiotic. Vitamin E oil speeds healing of cuts and scrapes. And, while not an herbal cure, gargling with hot salt water does wonders for killing off a sore throat—1 teaspoon salt to 6 ounces of water.
We’ve found we can beat most mild infections that come our way. As a result, our visits to the doctor and the use of antibiotics have been cut way down. We’ve also noticed an interesting change in the attitude of our medical doctors toward herbal/natural remedies. Previously antagonistic or disbelieving, their attitudes are now more accepting and embracing.
We realize there are times in life when antibiotics are an absolute necessity. However, many doctors are quick to prescribe them before determining the cause of an infection. Antibiotics kill bacteria—good and bad— but they are ineffective against viruses.
When taking antibiotics, we’ve learned to also take large doses of acidophilus, which bolsters our bodies’ production of the good bacteria we need to function properly. There are many types of acidophilus available at health and grocery stores— capsule form, chewable and lactose-free.
Now we’re going to get really personal.
K.Y.B.O – The Importance of Poop
For those of you who never experienced camp life, “K.Y.B.O.” is the bathroom, and stands for Keep Your Bowels Operating. As a camp counselor, Steve gave the nurse a daily report on the “regularity” of the kids in his cabin. The nurse monitored the entire camp and made decisions on dietary changes necessary to keep the campers “moving.” Monitoring our own bowels is no less important.
We monitor our kids and modify their diets if they become sluggish. As important as it is to eat healthy foods, it’s just as important to eliminate the waste properly. In order to correct some personal health issues, we’ve read a mountain of material and learned how to go from “really irregular” to “regular.” We’ve introduced more natural fiber into our diets.
A couple of prunes each day can improve your bowels’ performance. Adding wheat bran to ground-beef dishes and other foods increases fiber intake. Another natural helper is psyllium hulls, available in capsule form from most health-food stores. It slows down bowel activity and helps to heal irritable bowel syndrome.
Learn Everything You Can
When Annette was pregnant with our first baby, she compiled a list of 10 to 15 questions to ask the doctor during her monthly visits. At first, he bristled at her inquisitiveness. Normally, patients accepted his word as “gospel” and left him alone. Over time, he came to expect the questions.
By the seventh month, he would chuckle and ask Annette what questions were on her list. According to Bernie Siegel, M.D., in his book Love, Medicine & Miracles, patients who are a “pain in the ‘butt’” generally get better faster. They ask questions, challenge doctors’ ideas and basically take responsibility for their medical care. We need to do the same.
Read as much as you can about the conditions you experience. If your kids have asthma, become an asthma expert. Do you have back problems? Read, investigate and try different things. Being able to treat your condition at home saves time, money and stress. You’ll be surprised where you find solutions. It might be a radio program, a Web site, a used book rack at a thrift store or numerous other possibilities.
Build a Medical Library
What better place to invest than in your own well-being? The library holds great resources; ask friends for titles of books they have found helpful. Start with basic health reference books then grow your library to include volumes about your specific health issues. Ask your doctor for materials to help you understand your condition better. (Search our book review section for lots of better living titles)
Ounce by ounce, book by book, we can improve our health. While daunting at the outset, research can become extremely fulfilling as you discover better ways to deal with the specific problems that have plagued you.
Click on the following link for some other great money saving medical tips.
A Doctor’s Endorsement
We received this comment from Kyle Gardner Pharm D.
I am halfway through your book and I am really enjoying it. After reading your chapter on healthcare and since I am a healthcare professional, I have to say I can relate to a lot of what you talk about. I am not trying to be some sort of know it all but I did notice a few things in this chapter I would like to comment on.
90-day prescriptions are definitely a great way to save money but the doctor does have to approve this. For example, if John Doe’s script is written for 30 and he wants a 90 day supply the pharmacist or patient actually has to call the doctor to get this done.
The only other thing I wanted to add was to your section on antibiotics. In addition to all the reasons you gave for not taking them, another great reason is the development of resistance.
For example, if Jane Doe is taking an antibiotic she doesn’t need she cannot only develop a resistance to this antibiotic but also the people around her breathing in the same air can develop a resistance. This is why many antibiotics eventually do not work as well because the bugs can no longer be contained because they have seen enough of the medicine to know how to stay alive.
Thanks again for writing your book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, I am definitely a fan.
Kyle Gardner Pharm. D.