Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold)
The most common illness in human medicine is the common cold. Also known as an upper respiratory infection (URI), the common cold accounts for up to 25 million visits to physicians annually. The common cold can affect people of all ages and is experienced most frequently during the spring and fall. It is estimated that the average child experiences four to six colds per year, while the average adult contracts two to three colds per year.
Upper Respiratory Infections are mainly spread by person-to-person contact. The incubation period for a cold can be up to three days after exposure. It is important to distinguish between the Common Cold and Influenza or Flu. The common cold is generally a mild respiratory infection that typically resolves within ten days; whereas the flu can be much more severe and can lasts a lot longer.
|Causes||Infections, Dietary Factors, Smoking, Stress|
|See Also||Respiratory Conditions, Otitis Media, Sinusitis, Pneumonia, Epistaxis (nosebleed), Bronchitis, Influenza|
|Books||Books on Respiratory Conditions|
|Articles||Articles on Respiratory Conditions|
- 1 Naturopathic Assessment
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 Naturopathic Treatment
- 4 References
|Article||Use of a Standarized Extract from Echinacea angustifolia (Polinacea) for the Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections , Alt Med; 2012;Vol17(1)|
The risk of getting a cold depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less likely they will be affected by exposure to viruses, bacteria or other pathogens. The factors that are associated with increased susceptibility to upper respiratory infections include:
- Poor nutrition is associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of infection.
- Increased risk can be linked to specific nutrient deficiencies.
- :*Supplementing zinc has been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.
- Maintaining positive social relationships may help to prevent upper respiratory infections.
- Seasonal Changes
- Cold-causing viruses tend to survive better in the winter months due to lower humidity. The increased frequency of colds in the winter months may also be attributed to environmental impacts on the moisture level of the nasal lining.
- Dampness and Mold
- School Exposure
- Children attending pre-school and day care centres have more colds than those that do not attend. This difference is not observed in subsequent years, possibly due to acquired immunity.
- Prescription Medications
- Any prescription medication that weakens the immune system can increase the risk of upper respiratory infections.
- Breathing dysfunctions are associated with increased susceptibility and risk of a cold.
Related Symptoms and Conditions
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTIs) are typically caused by respiratory viruses and are associated with many symptoms that affect respiration. The first sign of a cold is often a sore throat, followed by sneezing and excess mucous production that typically starts out as clear and then can become cloudy. The excess mucous or phlegm often causes a cough or laborious breathing because of phlegm obstructing the airways. It is not common to have a fever with the common cold and symptoms typically resolve within 10 days.
The signs and symptoms associated with the common cold include:
Comparing Cold and Flu Symptoms
|Symptom||Cold Symptom||Flu Symptom|
|Aches, pains||Slight||Common, often severe|
|Chest Discomfort||Mild to moderate||Common to severe|
|Cough||Hacking (a short, weak repeating cough), productive cough (cough that produce phlegm)||Dry, unproductive cough (cough not accompanied by expectoration)|
|Extreme exhaustion||Never||Early and prominent|
|Fatigue||Mild||Moderate to severe, can last up to 2-3 weeks|
|Fever||Rare||Common, high (102-104F or 39-40C); last for days.|
|Sore throat||Common, often initial symptom||Sometimes|
|Other possible health problem||Usually no||pneumonia, bacterial infections|
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. A common cold will typically resolve on its own within ten days if a person is fairly healthy and provides their body with the rest and support that it requires. The following guidelines can help speed recovery and can assist in preventing frequent or long-lasting colds.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
Home Care strategies include:
- There is mixed evidence that using a humidifier can help to treat a cold. It is suggested that especially in dry environments the use of a humidifer may be helpful.
- Frequent hand washing to prevent contracting a cold is recommended. To decrease the chance of transmission, individuals should limit contact with an individual with a cold.
- Resting at home is recommended when recovering from an upper respiratory tract infection, both for personal health and to decrease transmission to others. Providing the body with adequate rest is often the most important step in speeding recovery.
Lifestyle recommendations include:
- Drink plenty of warm liquids such as water, diluted vegetable juices, soups and herb teas. Try to drink 8 ounces of water every hour.
- Avoid sugar, including natural sugars such as honey, orange juice, and fructose because simple sugars depress the immune system.
- Ensure adequate protein consumption. Protein requirement may be over 1.g/kg/day for adequate immune function.
- It is common to require additional sleep when recovering from a cold.
The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.
Naturopathic Therapies for upper respiratory infections include:
- Clinical Nutritional Supplementation includes
- Botanical remedies such as:
- Bayberry (Myrica cerifera), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Elder (Sambucus nigra), Eyebright (Euphrasia species), Garlic (Allium sativum), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Mullein (Verbascum thapus), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Thuja (Thuja occidentalis), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), Yarrow (Achileea millefolium), Andrographis, North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Wild Indigo (Baptisia)., , Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus), Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
- Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes the varied presentations of the common cold and flu, and treatment is dependent on detailed assessment. Treatment principles utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine to address a cold or flu include:
- Wind Cold
- Wind Heat
- Cold Deficiency
- Yin Deficiency
- Lung Qi Deficiency
Individual acupuncture points and chinese patent formulas are selected based on presentation and the disease pattern identified.
- Nasal Irrigation
- The use of a Neti pot, or other saline nasal spray may help with congestion associated with an upper respiratory tract infection.
- Contrast Showers
- Alternating hot and cold during showers may reduce the duration and frequency of cold symptoms.
Specialized Naturopathic Therapies
Specialized therapies that are used to treat cold and flu include:
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
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