Photo Cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22890442@N06/3481266061/
I commonly hear people thinking that the way to tell if you have a cold vs the flu or a bacterial infection is to check the color of your nasal discharge. If it’s clear it’s likely a cold (viral infection), and if its green/yellow/white it’s something more severe like a bacterial infection or the flu. Well, this is actually fairly inaccurate. Actually, it’s mostly inaccurate.
As shown by the Berg Prediction tool used by health care providers, colored discharge coming out of both nostrils, in and of itself, has a 15% predictive value of a bacterial infection. That’s not very predictive. If I was an investment banker and I told you I had a 15% success rate at picking the right investments, you probably wouldn’t hire me!
So what’s the difference between a cold and the flu? This table does a great comparison: (from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care website)
The last part about annual immunizations for the flu as prevention…the flu shot isn’t THAT effective, and there are some rare side effects but for some segments of the population it can be a useful tool (benefit outweighs the possibility of those rare adverse effects). That’s another can of worms.
So how can you treat colds/influenza? Antibiotics don’t work because in both cases the cause is a virus. Antibiotics only work on bacteria. Which is why the typical recommendation of rest, and lots of fluids is given. Luckily, naturopathic medicine can give you some extra tools to speed up your recovery.
Herbs - Many herbs such as licorice have anti-viral components in them that can actually help inhibit viral replication. The dose and type of herb depends on your presentation
Vitamin/Minerals - Although vitamin C has largely been debunked as treatment for cold/flu, it does have a small benefit at LARGE doses. Even larger of an effect when given IV. Zinc lozenges can help too.
Immune Boosting Herbs -Some herbs like Echinacea work by stimulating the immune system, rather than killing off the virus. Either way this helps you get over the infection quicker.
So there you go, now you have a little more knowledge to take on this year’s cold and flu season!
Note: I offer 15 min check ups for people with cold and flus who want some naturopathic help. This mini visit is $45!