Coping When Colds or Flu Catch Up with You

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Once again, the season for colds and flu is upon us.

Everywhere we turn we see tips on how to prevent catching them – from frequent hand washing to flu shots. Obviously, prevention is the best route. [See “Priming Your Immune System for Cold and Flu Season”] But since more than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, and flu viruses change constantly, chances are one of them may catch up to you.

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

If you do get sick, how do you tell if you have a cold or the flu? I often hear people describe any winter illness as the flu, when usually what they have is a bad cold. The table below, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, compares the two illnesses by symptoms and their severity:

Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Rare Usual; high (100ºF to 102ºF; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3-4 days
Headache Rare Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become more severe

Although most people recover from both colds and flu without significant problems, there can be complications. Possible complications from a cold include sinus infection, middle ear infection and asthma.

The flu, however, can have more serious complications, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.

So if you do get a cold or the flu, it is important that you take good care of yourself.  Here are a few things that may help…

Studies Show Vitamin D Supports Reduced Risk of Respiratory Tract Infections

Have you ever wondered why you get more colds and respiratory infections in fall and winter months? One reason may be because there is less sunshine, which is necessary in order for your body to produce vitamin D.

Based on that observation, a study was recently undertaken to determine if low vitamin D levels correlated with the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections. The researchers found that individuals with a serum 25(OH)D concentration of less than 38 ng/ml were three times more likely to become ill with an acute respiratory tract infection.(1)

The year before, scientists reported on a huge U.S. population-based study that demonstrated an association between vitamin D levels and upper respiratory tract infections. The study surveyed 18,883 participants from 1988 to 1994. The researchers found that those participants who had vitamin D blood levels below 10 ng/ml were about 40% more likely to report a recent respiratory infection than those who had vitamin D levels above 30 ng/ml. Asthma and COPD patients were at even greater risk.(2)

[You can read more about Vitamin D’s benefits here: “D-ficient? Health Risks You Need to Know About”]

Vitamin D3 5000 provides 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 to give you an extra boost of the sunshine vitamin that you especially need during the fall and winter months.

Vitamin C May Help Lessen Severity of Colds

For decades there has been controversy over whether taking vitamin C could prevent or help us get over a cold. Some experts swear by it, while others claim it has no value.

Those who don’t believe vitamin C has any effect on colds and flu usually cite studies like the 2007 review that compiled data from several smaller studies. In these studies, participants took only about 200 mg of vitamin C each day. Some took it all the time and others only after the onset of cold symptoms. The problem is, there was no control or consistency as to the type and quality of vitamin C used. Not surprisingly, the review concluded that vitamin C did not reduce the incidence of colds in the normal population, although it was effective for subgroups consisting of marathon runners, skiers and soldiers on sub-arctic exercises.(3)

It’s interesting to note that a February 2010 update of this review pointed out that the data used in the original review were based on intakes of vitamin C far below the levels actually thought to be helpful.

Other studies, using much higher doses of vitamin C, have had very different results.

In a 1999 study of more than 700 students, participants reporting cold symptoms were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C each hour for the first six hours and then three times daily thereafter. Those without symptoms were given 1,000 mg three times a day. The control group with cold symptoms was treated with pain relievers and decongestants. In the end, the students receiving the megadoses of vitamin C reported 85% fewer cold and flu symptoms than the control group.(4)

What studies like this show is that while low doses of vitamin C may not help the body combat colds, higher doses can be very effective in supporting the body’s ability to fend off and reduce the symptoms of colds.

PRO-C Complex™ is a unique form of buffered Vitamin C with metabolites (compounds derived from nutrients that are normally created in the body). Buffered C is absorbed 400% faster than regular vitamin C and remains in the body as much as three times longer.  PRO-C Complex contains the 1,000 mg dose used in the above study and is further enhanced with the synergistic blend of bioflavonoids, acerola, rose hips and rutin.

Guaifenesin Supports Relief of Respiratory Congestion

A key symptom of most cold and flu viruses is nasal and/or chest congestion caused by an accumulation of mucus in the respiratory tract.

Guaifenesin, a powerful expectorant, is a common component of many nonprescription cold and cough remedies. It works by drawing water into the bronchi – the air passages branching into our lungs. The released water thins the mucus and lubricates the airway, making it easier to expel the mucus by coughing.  It is also considered helpful for thinning postnasal drainage from the sinuses and reducing nasal congestion, which may in turn relieve sinus pressure and headache.

Guaifenesin FA contains 400 mg of guaifenesin and is the generic form of the popularly advertised product Mucinex®. It works best if you also drink plenty of water, as the extra fluids help increase the flow of water and mucus.

Encourage Reduced Nasal Congestion with Quercetin/Bromelain

The combination of quercetin and bromelain is designed to help maintain the proper functioning of the body’s histamine response and provide natural sinus support.

•  Quercetin is an antioxidant, and a member of the bioflavonoid family, that supports the body’s inflammation response and histamine processes. (Histamine is the chemical that promotes inflammation of mucous membranes in the nose, sinuses, and chest.)

•  Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme, derived from pineapple, that is added to enhance the absorption of quercetin into the body. (Since Quercetin is not water soluble, it is poorly absorbed without the addition of Bromelain.)

In addition to the quercetin and bromelain, Quercetin Bromelain Complex also contains magnesium and 600 mg of vitamin C – a winning cold-fighting combo.

[You can read more about quercetin/bromelain here: “Quercetin/Bromelain on Allergies”]

EpiCor® Strengthens Mucosal Barrier to Help Protect Against Colds and Flu

EpiCor, made of dried yeast fermentate, is best known as a powerful immune system balancer, which is an essential component of strategies for both preventing cold and flu viruses and fighting them off if they do manage to catch up with you.

The story behind the discovery of EpiCor is fascinating. [You can read it in “Priming Your Immune System for Cold & Flu Season”] Long story short, workers in a factory who were exposed to dried yeast fermentate on a regular basis were found to have remarkably good health, not succumbing to the usual seasonal ailments that afflicted other workers.

When researchers studied saliva samples from the exposed and unexposed workers, among other things, they found much higher levels of secretory IgA in the saliva of the exposed group, indicating improved functioning of the mucosal immune system – the body’s first line of defense against pathogens like cold and flu viruses.

Melatonin Supports Quality, Restorative Sleep

When you’re thinking of cold and flu-fighting supplements, melatonin probably does not immediately come to mind. After all, isn’t melatonin used to improve sleep? Yes, it is. And one of the most important things you need when you’re fighting a cold or the flu is lots of rest and good quality sleep. That’s when your body does its best healing and restoring work. But a good night’s sleep can be one of the hardest things to get when you’re sick.

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your pineal gland and plays a critical function in your sleep-wake cycle. But when that cycle gets out of whack, as it so often does when you’re sick, supplementing a little melatonin can help restore optimal sleep patterns.

In addition, melatonin is one of the most proficient free radical scavengers. While many antioxidants work in only certain areas of the body, melatonin has the ability to permeate any cell in any part of the body.

ProHealth’s Melatonin Sublingual Tablets are small with a pleasant lemon flavor. They quickly deliver the melatonin into your system to help you achieve more restful sleep.

In Summary

Do everything you can to prevent getting a cold or the flu, but if one of them does manage to catch you, these nutritional products may help your body get over it a little faster and more easily.


1.  Sandhu MS, Casale TB. The role of vitamin D in asthma. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 Sep;105(3):191-9.

2. Ginde A, et al. Association Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169 (4): 384

3.  Douglas RM, et al. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD000980.

4.  Gorton HC, Jarvis K. The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Oct;22(8):530-3.


* Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s fibromyalgia content and newsletter editor. Additionally, she is the HealthCentral Chronic Pain Connection’s Health Guide specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS ( A co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), Karen also served as Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.

Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.

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