Summer Cold Have You Down?

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AHHHH-CHOOOOO!!!

Are colds really worse in summer?  Seems like it.  My handsome husband woke all droopy-eyed with a cold  this morning, poor thing, and he looks terrible, but I’ve been taking good care of him.  My cure-all potato soup is on the stove and hot ginger tea is in the pot.  I put clean sheets on the bed and have him all tucked in.  No work for John at all today.

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Summer colds are caused by different viruses than winter colds and tend to last longer than the winter variety.  In fact, colds in summertime can last for weeks, at times seemingly going away and then suddenly storming back with a vengeance, infectious disease experts say. A winter cold, by contrast, is typically gone in a few days.  Why is this?

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Some of the things people commonly do in the summer can prolong the illness, like being physically active and going in and out of air-conditioned buildings.  Do this for awhile and before you know it, you have “clothespin nose”!

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Summer colds, which can hit between June and October, occur only about 25% as often as the winter variety. But summer colds can have more severe, flu-like symptoms, in addition to sneezing and coughing. Many people also mistake a summer cold for allergies, because it just doesn’t seem to leave.

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My cousin is still trying to shake off a cold she developed in early May. It began with the sniffles, so she didn’t pay much attention to it at first.   She continued to exercise  and play tennis.   However, she soon developed a fever—uncommon for her, —and a cough and she became overly exhausted.    She initially thought she had pneumonia, the symptoms were so bad. By the time she went to see Ed, a doc friend of ours, she had already begun taking a cocktail of Mucinex, cough syrup, Tylenol and Sudafed.   (I’m a homeopathic kinda gal myself, but my cousin is not.) Ed prescribed a different cough syrup, but that  didn’t work, so he  eventually put her on antibiotics.

My friend ended up taking a week off from her high-demand, executive job and ended up missing two weeks of tennis practice, which is unfortunate, since she had planned to play in a tournament.  Her husband, William, who caught the cold the third week of her illness, is also still ill.

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When I catch a cold, I find that it helps to  ramp up my exercise routine to sweat out the cold, but I have recently learned that this practice might actually prolong the illness, which says a lot.  I haven’t been sick in a year, but last year and the year before, I was sick for months!  Moderate exercise tends to protect the body from illness, but a sudden and strenuous workout can decrease the body’s immunity.

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And moving between the hot summer outdoors and cold air-conditioned inside environments can make people more vulnerable to sickness in summer. The sudden chilling lowers the defenses in the nose and throat by causing constriction of the blood vessels. If a virus is already  at work in the body,  this reduces our immunity.

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A summer cold’s symptoms can be a bit surprising. Along with the sniffles, sufferers may also get a fever, diarrhea and an achy-breaky body. Symptoms can also vary depending on people’s ages.

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Because summer colds stick around longer than many people expect, they are often mistaken for allergies.  Some ways to tell the difference: If you are “droopy-eyed”…meaning your eyelids are puffy and eyes bloodshot, it is  probably allergies instead of a cold. Mucus color also is different—green for allergies, clear for summer cold. If  your nose and eyes and ears feel itchy or tickly, that really points to allergies, and not to a summer cold.

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I am giving John some NOW brand zinc while he is sick.  However, in my research, I have learned that taking zinc, which is often advised for warding off winter colds, may not work for the summer variety. The literature on zinc is mixed, but the proposed mechanism is that it might interfere with how the virus attaches inside the body.   Since the summer virus attaches differently, it might not work as well.  Time will tell.

Enteroviruses and rhinoviruses are around all year. According to further research, it is not yet clear why summer colds tend to be caused by one virus and not the other.  Possibly, the summer-cold virus may be more physically delicate than the winter cold virus…but who knows?

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Winter colds may occur more frequently than summer colds because colder weather and lack of sunlight decreases the body’s immunity.  However,  both types of virus thrive where large numbers of people gather, such as schools, public transportation, sports games and airlines flights.  Anywhere there’s crowding, you can pick up a cold.

Remedies for an Upset Tummy

Home Remedies to Fix that Upset Tummy:

When it comes to minor ailments,  I go for natural remedies over pharmaceuticals.  This is typical for someone living in Portland.  A lot of people here lean toward the natural remedies first.   However,   I always consult with my doctor if it is anything meds-worthy.   I am not a physician and do not recommend the following home remedies as medical “cures” for anything.  They are simply things I have tried for an upset stomach that have worked for me.  Try at your own risk., please, or better yet, consult a physician before trying any of them.


Carrot and Mint “Juice”

This concoction may be the ticket.  The carrot provides nourishment and peppermint soothes an upset stomach. To make it, boil four sliced carrots, four cups of water, and one teaspoon of dried peppermint or one peppermint teabag. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes or until carrots are malleable.  If a teabag is used, remove it before blending the mixture until smooth.  Enjoy! You can also add a pinch of ground ginger to further soothe, or a squeeze of lemon juice for flavor.  Chill well before serving.

Rice Tea

Pok-Pok, an excellent Thai restaurant near our home, serves rice tea when people request water.  They also serve drinking vinegars that are great for an upset stomach.  To settle the tum-tum  or stop diarrhea, make a rice “tea.” Boil 1/2 cup of rice in six cups of water for about 15 minutes. Strain out the rice, then flavor the water with a dash of honey or sugar and drink warm.

Burnt Toast ….Yes, really.

Toast is good for an upset stomach, right? …but burnt toast is even better!   The  char absorbs toxins that are making you feel crummy.   Add a smear of jelly if you’d like.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is an oldie, but goodie, that my grandmother and mother always used.  A mixture of one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, one cup warm water, and one tablespoon honey will ease indigestion and may alleviate cramping and gas in your upset stomach. It can also lessen discomfort caused by heartburn.

The CRAP Diet …uh, huh.  I said, “CRAP”!  🙂

If you’re feeling constipated, try the CRAP diet: It stands for “cherries, raisins, apricots, and prunes.” These are all fiber-friendly foods that should get the ‘ol system moving and ease that upset stomach.

Yogurt

You probably don’t crave anything dairy when you have a stomach ache.  However, the probiotic qualities of yogurtmake it a good remedy, as it eases digestive discomfort and boosts the  immune system. Be  make sure to choose non-fat plain yogurt without the  sugar or flavors that some yogurt companies add.

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds contain a lot of  vitamins and minerals, all of  which inhibit the growth of the types of  bacteria that cause  gas, indigestion or bloating.   Chomp down a handful of these delicious seeds after eating, or when you feel gassy.   Miraculous!

Fennel

I’m a fresh fennel freak anyway, but especially when I have an upset stomach.  Whether it’s indigestion or gas and bloating, fennel to the rescue!  Sip fennel tea, chew on some fennel seeds or crunch on some fresh, raw fennel.   Fennel supports digestion, reduces gas, helps with cramping, and lessens nausea from an upset stomach.